Chapter 47 – Shattered Escape
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Inside the ruined grandeur of the Rendil Temple, a sense of urgency sizzled alongside the sparking energy of the Cloud Portal. The swirling vortex of light grew larger and brighter, promising a pathway back to the Aerithra Kingdom.

Elara stood at the very edge of the platform, gazing into the swirling portal. With trembling hands, she clutched a small, leather-bound pouch that contained a few precious belongings which survived Nathor Prison - a lock of her husband's hair, a faded photograph of their family, and a smooth, polished stone that she had found during her time in the Terravolt Kingdom. The stone had a subtle warmth that pulsed with a deep swirling blue, much like her own heartbeat.

"Anya, come here, sweetheart," she called out to her daughter who was beside Woodworm near a pile of rubble.

Plutak, who had been watching the portal with anxiety, turned his gaze away, scooped Anya up in his arms and said gently, "Come along, baby girl. It's time to go with mama."

He carried Anya towards Elara while looking at the portal that promised a new beginning for his family. He had made the right decision. He would leave behind the harshness of the Terravolt Kingdom and its oppressive regime. He would take his family to the Aerithra Kingdom where they could start a new life free from persecution.

As he neared Elara, he reached out to hand Anya over, but just as their fingers were about to touch, a surge of energy erupted from the entranceway behind them.

Boom!

A blinding flash of light occupied the chamber, accompanied by a deafening roar that shook the very foundations of the temple. The Cloud Portal sputtered and flickered, and the swirling vortex collapsed inwards as the Cloud Stones were knocked out of alignment and  scattered across the chamber like fallen stars.

“Mommy!” Anya screamed as she was thrown from Plutak's arms and sent tumbling across the floor.

Caught in the blast's epicentre, Elara was flung forward until she disappeared into the remnants of the portal just as it winked out of existence.

"Elara! Anya!" Plutak cried out in horror as he scrambled to his feet, desperately searching for his wife and daughter.

The others were thrown into chaos. Some were knocked to the ground, while others stumbled and staggered, disoriented by the sudden blast of energy.

"What the hell was that?" Brokk yelled as he picked himself up from the ground, dusting off his clothes. "Is everyone alright?"

Daichi, who had been peering out of a crack in the wall, observing the battle outside, rushed back into the chamber with his face pale with fear. "What the hell happened to the portal!? Did it explode?"

The Rice Guru, who had been carefully placing the final Cloud Stone into its designated position, cursed under his breath as he watched the stones scatter across the platform. "The portal... it's been disrupted. Only Elara managed to pass through before it collapsed."

Bishane approached the Rice Guru and asked hopefully, "Can you... can you get it operational again?"

The Rice Guru responded, "I can, but I'll need time. And I'll need you to protect my back while I work."

"We'll protect you, Master Rice Guru," Brokk declared, stepping forward and clenching his fists. "Those bastards won't get another shot at us."

Plutak, who had finally located Anya and confirmed her safety, rushed to his brother's side. He placed Anya down gently on the platform and said, "I'm with you, Brokk. Let's show them what we're made of."

Bishane and Lukio also joined them with their ZenFlow Kana emanating from their bodies as wisps of swirling wind.

"We will defend you to our last breath, Master Rice Guru," Bishane vowed with a deep bow.

Lukio added determinedly, "No one messes with a Windweaver and gets away with it!"

Inspired by their courage, Daichi yearned to join them. But he hesitated, glancing nervously at the open archway that led to the courtyard outside. He could hear the roar of the battle, the clash of metal against wind, and the thunderous bellows of the Cerberus Titan. He knew that Master Sorah was out there, fighting for their survival, and he didn't want to abandon him.

He glanced over at Woodworm who had burrowed halfway into the ground. Its round eyes were peering out at the commotion.

Daichi whispered, "Stay hidden, fat worm. You’re too big of a target."

"Surrender yourselves, Aerithran scum!"

Suddenly, a voice dripping with arrogance and authority cut through the tense atmosphere. The escapees turned towards the source of the voice.

Standing at the side entrance with his elegant garments partially covered in dust and debris, was Duke Theodore of the Imperial Court. He slowly blew the muzzle of his Aether Pistol that was smoking from the recent blast. He aimed the weapon at the group once more and smiled a cruelly.

'I need them alive,' he thought with his finger twitching on the trigger. 'But a little intimidation won't hurt.'

He announced, "Resistance is futile. You are surrounded. Surrender now, and I might just spare your miserable lives."

Brokk stepped forward with his anger flaring as he locked onto the Duke. "We will never surrender to the likes of you! You pompous, arrogant ass!"

Daichi, despite his fear, echoed Brokk's sentiment with a defiant shout. "Yeah! What he said!" He spat on the ground as a gesture of utter contempt.

Duke Theodore's smile vanished immediately and was replaced by a scowl of indignation. "You dare defy me? You dare insult a Duke of the Imperial Court? Such heinous crime is punishable by death!"

He raised his Aether Pistol higher, aiming it directly at Brokk's chest. "I will not tolerate such insolence. Prepare to-"

“Enough of your pompous prattle, you gilded peacock!" Brokk cut off the Duke's threat then he unleashed his TerraFlow Kana.

Boom!

The air around him was consumed by emerald-white Aether Steam that poured from his palms, swirling and condensing into a miniature sandstorm.

Brokk slammed his fists together, and the sandstorm solidified, forming a massive gauntlet of rock around his left arm. The gauntlet was covered in jagged edges and sharp spikes.

"Let's see how your fancy clothes fare against my Rock Fists!" he bellowed and started charging towards the Duke with surprising speed.

Whoosh!

Daichi watched in awe as Brokk's feet seemed to glide across the dusty floor, leaving behind a trail of shimmering rocks. It was as if he were skating on air despite his bulky frame.

“This is…”

The Aerithrans stared in astonishment as Brokk neared the Duke. They had never witnessed such a display of raw power, not from a mere villager.

“You DARE!?”

Duke Theodore, momentarily startled by Brokk's sudden aggression, raised his Aether Pistol and aimed it at the charging Terravoltian. But before he could pull the trigger, a figure materialized between him and Brokk, blocking the path with two outstretched fingers.

Clang!

The impact of Brokk's Rock Fist against the figure's fingers sent a shockwave rippling through the chamber. Dust and debris swirled around them as Brokk stumbled back. His arm was numb from the collision.

"What the..." he gasped, blinking in surprise as he got a better look at his opponent.

Standing before him were the Imperial Guards - Yamul and Hamal. They had moved with lightning speed, intercepting Brokk's attack just before it could reach the Duke.

"You will not harm His Grace," Yamul said calmly, but with a hint of steel.

"We are his shield," Hamal added.

“Tsk, that punk soil my garment.” Duke Theodore brushed a speck of dust from his silken tunic in annoyance. "Well done, my loyal protectors.” He glanced at Brokk. “It appears we have a... pest problem. See to it. Capture the Aerithrans. As for the Terravoltians... dispose of them as you see fit.”

“As you command, your Grace.” Yamul and Hamal replied in unison as they took a step forward.

Thud!

Brokk's anger flared as he listened to the Duke's words. “You bastards, bring it on! I’m not afraid of you!”

Plutak clenched his fists. "They will not get away with this, brother. We will fight them to our last breath."

“Indeed. We stand with you, brothers.” Bishane and Lukio stepped forward.

"Aerithrans and Terravoltians, united against tyranny!" Lukio added.

“Hmm?”

Duke Theodore watched in annoyance as the Aerithrans and the Terravoltians prepared to fight his Imperial Guards. He had expected them to cower in fear, to beg for mercy. Instead, they stood before him defiantly?

"Fools. You are no match for the might of the Dune Empire. You will all perish here, in this dusty ruin if you don’t kneel and beg for forgiveness."

He turned to Yamul and Hamal, who were watching the prisoners with a predatory gaze. "Deal with them quickly," he ordered. "I have no patience for this nonsense."

"Consider it done, Your Grace.”

With synchronicity, they both yelled, “Combustion!”

Boom!

TerraFlow Kana was let out by the Imperial Guards. From their bodies, Aether Steam shot forth, whirling and growing into raw power vortices. With their muscles popping, their figures started to take on a monstrous quality. Hi-ho-ho!

Brokk, Plutak, Bishane, Lukio and the other Aerithrans stared in horror as the Imperial Guards transformed into their Titan Avatars - the Twin Rock Gator beasts, their colossal forms barely contained within the confines of the temple chamber.

"By the winds...They’ve unleashed their Titan Avatars!" Bishane trembled at the sight.

“What are we going to do?”

The other Aerithrans stumbled back in terror. The initial defiance they portrayed was replaced by a primal fear. They had never fought against such creatures before and their instincts screamed at them to flee.

“Don’t panic. Stand your ground and protect my back.”

Saying this, the Rice Guru continued working on the portal. He retrieved and realigned the scattered Cloud Stones. Some of the stones were cracked and broken, but the Rice Guru, with his mastery of Boqumu and his deep understanding of the Cloud Script was mending them with ease.

As he worked, he muttered incantations that blended with the sounds of the approaching battle.

"Just a little longer," he whispered to himself. "Just a little longer..."

He glanced up at the towering forms of the Rock Gator Titan Avatars as they prepared to rampaged through the chamber.

'Will they be able to hold out? Will Master Sorah return in time? He was facing his own troubles outside, wasn’t he?' Uncertainty permeated his visage.

 

 

 

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