Tempo Trigger Chapter 23
Battle of the Magi
"Schala, when I first met you, you wished that I was a little bit older." Ertai started nervously. She just smiled at him and nodded, looking exactly as she had the first time he saw her. He shook off his momentary trance with her beauty to finish his statement. "Well, now I'm a little bit older. I think I know what you meant before too. I mean, 12 and 16 don't exactly go together that well. But, 14 and 18? Well, that's a different story." He shot her a knowing grin.
"Hell, I don't know why I'm being so weird about this. Schala, you're the only girl who ever interested me on more than a physical level. I'm not sure if even Greven appreciated you as much as I do. And, well, I'd like to get to know you better."
Now Schala spoke. "So, you've seen the outside..." Instantly, she morphed into the version of her he had last seen. Older, but pale and sickly looking, and most of all, depressed. "You think you can handle the rest? Trying to fill a bottomless void in my life? Knowing you failed in protecting all of your friends, and that I blame you for it? Knowing that I'll always compare you to your brother, and that I truly believe no one could ever measure up to his standard?" She folded her arms haughtily and turned her back to him.
Instantly, he walked up behind her and put his arms around her waist. "Yes."
Her eyes widened in surprise. "Yes?"
"Yes..." He closed his eyes, and instantly, they were seated on the grass in front of the great lake of Zeal. He maintained hold of her with his left arm. "I can bring you back to what we both once knew. Lavos failed to kill us, and now he's dead. We thought we lost everything, but we're both still here, free to live..." He turned toward her, and he gently reached over and turned her chin toward him. A longing look was in her eyes. "..And to love..."
He almost kissed her, but she turned away from him again. "I'd like to believe that Ertai, but there are a few other things."
"I can handle them." He assured her.
"Can you really? Let's start with... ..the Nooze!!" Instantly, her midsection exploded, and a black, oozing substance covered Ertai from head to toe. "Can you love an organism that consists entirely of the blood of innocents?"
"I... I..." Ertai stammered, unsure of the right thing to say, if there was a right thing.
"Can you love a woman filled with the power of what obliterated your family?!" She demanded, an orange glow in her eyes. More Nooze was appearing from out of nowhere, beginning to flood their location. Schala burst out of it and hovered in the air, her hands glowing now.
"Please Schala!" Ertai stretched his hand out. "If you'll only let me try, I'm sure there's a way!"
"Can you live with the ultimate annihilation?!!" She screamed at him, then brought her glowing hands forward and unleashed the full power that had been stored within them. The Nooze around Ertai vaporised, and so did his flesh, leaving nothing but a skeleton.
Somehow, he still managed to plead with her. "Schala... I really would... I would..."
She remained silent now, but raised her hand up again, and unleashed another orange blast right in Ertai's face. "No, please!!" Ertai cried out as his jaw vaporised. "Schaaaaalllaaaaaaaa!!!"
* * *
Ertai blinked rapidly as he woke up. As his vision cleared, he could see puffy white clouds drifting lazily across a blue sky, slightly dimmed by the canopy of the Epoch. He realized there were tears in his eyes, and he quickly brushed them away as he sat up. He hated showing any sign of weakness in front of Magus.
"Something the matter?" Ertai's state hadn't slipped past the mage's watchful eye.
"Not really." Ertai sighed, leaning back again. "But have you ever had a dream that just puts you in a weird mood? Like, it's almost as powerful as a real experience?"
"I sure have." Magus' eyes narrowed imperceptibly. "More than I'd like to recall." He snapped out of his own thoughts and turned back to Ertai. "So what kind of "weird mood" did this dream put you in?"
Ertai laid his hands palms up in his lap, and just stared at them. "I feel powerless." He whispered. "As if, no matter how strong I become, I won't have the power to change anything."
"Believe me, I know the feeling." Magus came close to smiling. "You think you'll still be able to keep a lookout?"
"Sure." Ertai sat up, peering intently out the canopy now. "When are we?"
"I'm not sure." Magus replied. "Most dwellings I've flown over are wooden, and all vehicles are pulled by animals. Nothing too advanced."
"We'll be out of here pretty quick then?"
Magus glanced around again. "Looks that way." They cruised in silence for a few minutes, scanning the landscape.
"What's that?" Ertai pointed down at the middle of a mountain range.
"Looks like about seven mesas." Magus dismissed them, looking elsewhere.
"Yeah, but they're all kind of clustered together." Ertai protested. "At that short distance, you'd think they'd all be one mesa, or jagged looking if erosion had split them apart, but they're all pretty smooth." Magus sighed, considering. "Look, we're not just going to bump into that ship Schala might have been on. I think it's pretty obvious that they ended up in a different time than we did. Now, those mesas look like they might have been terraformed. It's worth checking out at least."
Magus did smile now, somewhat amused by Ertai over-arguing his case. He had already decided to do it. "All right, let's go." He pushed forward on the controls, and the Epoch spiraled into a gentle descent.
The Epoch touched down about a mile away from the cluster of mesas. Their landing stirred up a cloud of dust. Magus retracted the canopy and stood up. As the dust began to clear, it revealed a robed figure standing in the wind about thirty feet in front of them. With a start, Magus reached for his scythe, but stopped as the figure made no move. After a brief silence, Magus stepped out of the Epoch and took a few steps forward. As the dust cleared completely, he could see a second figure walking from the cluster of mesas toward their location, but it was still a ways off.
Finally, the robed figure revealed its hands to show that it carried no weapon, and leaned its head back to reveal the face of a handsome man under the hood. "Greetings, time travelers." He smiled, then stated simply, "My name is Leng."
Magus was more curious than worried, though casting an eye back to the Epoch, he saw Ertai was getting his sword launcher ready. "How do you know we are time travelers?" He asked before introducing himself.
"It's fairly obvious." Leng smiled in a friendly manner. "For starters, you've got blue hair. That just isn't normal. Second, that machine you're flying obviously wasn't made in this relatively primitive era. And third, my absolute proof is that my sensors detected a temporal distrubance not long ago. I've been expecting you."
"Why is that?" Ertai tried to sound geniunely curious, but the nervousness that came from the fact that he was concealing his sword launcher under the Epoch's control panel showed through.
"This is the only terraformed structure on the planet in this particular decade. It's the only thing that could prove of any interest to you."
Magus finally relaxed. "I am known as The Magus." He said by way of introduction.
"Ah..." Leng smiled again. "I also have the privelege of being a magus, although my enemies see fit to refer to me as "The Decapitator."
"Great." Ertai muttered, his trigger finger throbbing.
"My nervous young companion there is Ertai Vecar." Magus introduced Ertai when it became obvious that he wasn't going to introduce himself.
The figure that they had seen in the distance now neared their location, and walked up to stand to the side of and slightly behind Leng. "This is my Lieutenant, Soul Master Raganorn." The chivalrous man bowed in respect. Feeling at ease, Magus walked nearer to Leng, who continued to provide information. "I am the ruler of this fortre..." Suddenly, Leng frowned and jumped back. "What the hell?!" He seemed to be sniffing the air.
"What?" Magus whirled around, scanning for some sort of threat. When he turned back, Leng and Raganorn were both in a battle stance, holding giant claymores that had appeared from out of nowhere. "What's going on?!" Magus demanded.
"As if you didn't know." Leng spat scornfully. "Both of you are flooded with Lavoid magic!"
"Hold on!" Magus shouted. "We both lived in a place where Lavoid magic was used for everything. We had no way of preventing it from permeating our bodies! I hate Lavoids!"
"So you say." Leng snarled. "But it is our sworn duty to wipe out all traces of Lavoid existence from this planet. Your doom is at hand!" With that, Leng and Raganorn leapt forward, both swinging their claymores in a vicious downward chop. Magus rolled to the side of Leng's strike, and whipped out his scythe in time to parry Raganorn's.
"Let's go Ertai!" He shouted.
"I am!" Ertai shouted back as he let loose with an explosive from his sword launcher. 'I just don't have to move to "go."' He informed Magus smugly. Magus' two assailants were hurled to the ground as the explosive detonated, but quickly jumped back to their feet and rushed at him again. They engaged Magus in a lightning fast battle of blades, which should have been impossible for men wielding claymores, and Ertai could barely make out who was doing what.
'This isn't working Ertai!' Magus shouted mentally. 'Those blades pack a huge punch, and they're using them like fencing swords! I can't win this way! You have to turn this battle magical, and fast!'
'All right.' Ertai nodded grimly. He was acutely aware of the fact that he was no match for either Leng or Raganorn, but if "little" Janus could go all out, he'd give it his all too. He jumped down from the cockpit, hands glowing yellow, and ran toward the other three. "Hey!" He shouted, trying to get their attention. It didn't work. "He isn't the only one fighting, you know!" With that, Ertai spread his arms out, and let loose with a Lightning 2. The jagged, arcing bolts whirled out from him in all directions, one hitting Leng right between the eyes. The battle momentarily paused, but that seemed to be all the effect that his spell had.
A moment was all Magus needed. He stretched his left arm out, and a Dark Bomb erupted under Leng, hiding him from view. Leng ran through it as if it wasn't there, barreling into Magus with his shoulder. From the ground, Magus let a massive lightning bolt flow from each of his arms, directly into Leng's head. As Leng frowned and stretched a glowing hand over his downed body, Magus began to think he was out of his league.
Ertai watched with amazement as Magus was engulfed by a white explosion. Leng appeared to be invincible. He turned as a shadow fell over him, and saw Raganorn frowning down at him. "You just can't seem to decide whether you want to be in this battle or not." He observed. "Well, let me make the decision for you." As Raganorn's foot raced for his head blindingly fast, Ertai teleported behind and above him, kicking him in the head on his way back to the ground. "Well, you're a tricky one." Raganorn rubbed his head, then executed a back kick which Ertai also teleported away from, as he had expected. He grunted as Ertai's reappearing foot connected with his jaw. "But all tricks eventually get old. Let's just see how long you can keep this up." Phasing out again, Ertai obliged...
"You call yourself a Magus?" Leng scoffed at him. Magus sat, breathing heavily. He slowly stood up in the crater Leng had just formed around him, his clothes smoking.
"You bet." Magus said simply. Instantly, a lance of Shadow energy launched from his hand, barreling into Leng, and throwing him end over end in the dust. Leng was instantly back up, fire streaming from his feet as he rocketed forward in midair. Not waiting to see what he had in store, Magus mimicked the move and rushed to meet him. As they neared each other, Leng's hand began to glow. He straightened up to cast his spell. Magus continued his charge and punched Leng in the gut, then quickly circled around behind him and cast another Shadow Lance.
Leng was thrown forward, and came to rest in the same crater Magus had so recently occupied. Not giving him another chance to get up, Magus gathered the magical waves for a Dark Matter as fast as he could, and directed the energy to erupt right on top of Leng. He allowed himself a brief smile as Leng disappeared in the middle of the giant Shadow triangles, and the dust from the resulting explosion obscured his view.
Ertai grew more and more confident as Raganorn obtained more and more bruises, while he remained unscathed. He teleported directly in front of the large knight and tried for a roundhouse kick to the head. Grinning, Raganorn grabbed his pivoting ankle and jerked him into the air. Ertai quickly began to teleport again, but he didn't succeed until Raganorn had slammed him into the ground. He hit his head, and suddenly found himself twelve feet in the air. He knew he didn't have time to teleport again before he hit the ground. He hit it very hard.
"Urgh..." Ertai groaned, but quickly rolled to the side as Raganorn's sword descended on his location. Instantly, his sword launcher materialized in his hands, loaded and ready to go. "Choke on this, bastard." He said grimly, and pulled the firing rod. Raganorn jerked his head to the side as the sword raced up. It shaved a part of his beard off, but that was the only noticeable effect. Raganorn kicked the launcher out of Ertai's hands. Ertai considered 'porting it back, but he realized he wouldn't have time to reload at this close range. Instead, he 'ported a sword from his launching supply into his right hand, and stood up, his head whirling.
For once, Raganorn stood still, awaiting his move. "All right, let's see what you think of one of Schala's best!!"
"Schala?" Raganorn's eyes widened. But Ertai was already beginning to yell, and didn't hear his inquiry.
"Huagh!!" Ertai brought his sword up and charged forward. As he neared Raganorn, and mixture of purple and green energy rushed out of the blade in a ragged bolt, tearing a huge gash in Raganorn's armor. The blade, which was now superheated from the spell, passed unobstructed into Raganorn's abdomen.
Raganorn stiffened, but only grimaced as Ertai stepped back. He yanked the blade out, seemingly oblivious to the blood flow, or the smell of burning flesh. "You know, you're beginning to annoy me..."
"Holy crap!" Ertai sputtered. The wound was bad, but it didn't seem to have really hurt him in the least.
Raganorn kneeled down on one knee, and began glowing a bright green. "Comet Charge!!"
"Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitt!!!" Ertai cried as a blazing comet nine feet in diameter rushed at him, and continued to cry as he was hurled through the air, to land in a dusty heap at Magus' feet.
Magus turned around at the sound of Ertai's landing, his back now turned to where clouds of dust obscured Leng's form, if Leng still existed. "I've taken knights like you before." Magus growled at Raganorn. "So I'd advise you to retreat right now."
"I'd advise YOU not to be so overconfident." Raganorn folded his arms. At that statement, several dozen fireballs erupted from the spot where the Dark Matter had detonated, each on a slightly different vector. They curled around, and slammed into the spot where Magus was standing. Ertai's yell of pain was drowned out by the sound of the blast.
When the last blast dissipated, Magus reached down and quickly yanked Ertai to his feet. "All right then." He pulled back into a battle stance, facing the spot where Leng must surely be, "It's time to get serious!!"
"You weren't being serious before?" Ertai asked, incredulous.
Magus continued to keep his eyes locked on Leng's location. "There's a big difference between just fighting and really going all out. It's almost impossible to kill even a normal human if they're fighting as hard as they can. An old lady with one leg could give these guys a hard time if she had a good reason."
"I see." Ertai dusted himself off. "Do we have a good reason?"
"I do." Magus smiled now. "One that's always worked for me. These guys think they're better than I am!!"
"That's a theory you're going to get a chance to prove!" Leng finally rose up into the air. The edges of his robe appeared slightly singed, but otherwise he had suffered no damage. "So, you were holding back before, huh? We'll see. Let's go!'
"You got it!" Magus jumped up into the air as well, gathering Shadow energy in his fist as he punched Leng in the face. Somehow, Leng executed a massive back kick in the air, then whirled around and followed it up with a blast of fire. Magus quickly directed a Geyser to shoot up into Leng, but it looked as if he barely felt it. As Leng flew closer, Magus blasted him with Dark Mist, but Leng bulldozed through that too. About ten feet away from Magus, Leng suddenly halted, then brought his wrists together, fingers spread apart. A golden beam of energy slammed into Magus, carrying him down to the ground, and making a large explosion.
Magus coughed as he pushed himself back up, but barely noticed the pain. 'Beam magic!' He realized excitedly. 'I always thought it was only a legend!' Without bothering to stand up, Magus launched himself back into the air. He nailed Leng with another Dark Matter, then whipped out his scythe as the Shadow energy dissipated. Leng's sword was almost in his face before he even saw it coming. Magus directed a lightning bolt to strike the blade of his scythe. As he parried Leng's slash, the energy transferred over to Leng's sword, and on into him. Magus channeled a blast of Shadow down the two weapons, and directed it inside of Leng. The resulting surge blew Leng's arm off.
Leng growled, and delivered a roundhouse kick to Magus' head before casting a healing spell to restore his arm. The two rushed at each other again, and Ertai could barely follow what was happening, they moved so fast. Scythe swipe. Sword parry. Dark Bomb. Fire 2. High punch. Roundhouse kick. Spell after spell after spell. In an unusual display of physical skill, Magus nailed Leng with an uppercut that sent him flailing back toward the ground. But suddenly, Leng teleported directly in front of Magus, hands glowing red. "Flare!!" Magus was not prepared for the speed with which the spell activated, and it literally blew up right in his face. His burning figure fell to the ground. "Now you're finished!" Leng grinned.
He put his wrists together again, but this time the resulting beam was much more powerful. Ertai could almost feel it throb with energy, and there seemed to be red veins mixed in with the massive gold burst. As the beam connected with Magus, the very ground shook, and the light from the energy blast was blinding. "Oh crap." Ertai stated simply.
But as his vision returned and the dust began to blow away, Ertai was shocked to see that not only was Magus standing up, he was actually smiling! Ertai was even more surprised when Magus began to speak, and it became apparent that he was rhyming. 'I think Leng broke his brain.' Ertai grimaced.
Magus held his left hand out, and black energy began to surround it. "Nail me once: Good for you." He began. Then, lightning began to crackle around his fist in addition to the Shadow. "Nail me twice: Now I can do it too! Hyaaaaaahhhh!!!" A beam of energy darker than a starless night erupted from his fist, humming dangerously.
Leng obviously had plenty of time to get ready, and simply cast Reflect. Two seconds later, Magus' beam smashed through Leng's barrier like it was nothing, barreling into him with the full force of its destructive power. Leng was carried high up into the air, then Magus opened his fist, and the beam condensed in a sphere around Leng, where it exploded. Wisps of black vapor were left in a trail behind Leng as he plummeted to the ground.
Raganorn pinched himself to make sure he was awake, then levitated up into the air and raced over to Leng's location. Magus was disappointed to see Leng sit up and cough. "Are you all right sir?" Raganorn kneeled beside him. Leng groggily nodded an affirmative. "What's happening? They were never supposed to win!"
"I don't know." Leng shook his head to clear it. "That Reflect was powerful enough to block ten times as much power as he had used up to that point..."
"So there's no way we can beat him?" Raganorn couldn't believe it.
"No..." Leng smiled, then stood up. "Now it's time for ME to get serious."
Raganorn's jaw dropped. "You mean with all the power you've already displayed, you were just toying with him?"
"Well, he's a very dangerous toy, but essentially, yes."
Raganorn looked down at the dirt. "Man, I feel so powerless."
Leng put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, remember what I told you. All power is relative. No one is ever powerless, and at the same time, no one is ever all-powerful. There are always those stronger and weaker than yourself. Compared to most on this planet, you're incredibly strong. Now let's defeat those upstarts."
"Yes sir!" Raganorn said gladly.
"Uh, Magus?" Ertai called to where he was still breathing heavily inside of his crater. "Why didn't you attack again while they were just sitting there?"
Magus grimaced. "Because I'm all tapped out kid. I used up every last ounce of power on my wavelength, and I hoped it would finish him off."
"Isn't there anything else you can do?" Ertai looked extremely apprehensive.
"I can fight physically, of course." Magus gripped his scythe. "But as long as they've still got magic power, that won't do much good. So unless you know how to control mana or chi, and can teach me in about five seconds, the rest is up to you."
"Mana? Chi? What the hell are you talking about?" Ertai demanded.
"Here they come." Magus gestured with his scythe, not answering him. Ertai quickly glanced back at Leng and Raganorn, but they didn't seem to be doing anything. Then Magus grunted, and he noticed a rain of meteors falling from the sky. Ertai's jaw dropped, but he did nothing else. Magus slapped himself on the head. "God, he's green." Then he shouted, "Cast a barrier, now!!" Ertai gulped, then a yellow shield of crackling electricity surrounded him. Magus looked back up at the descending meteors, which were not far away now, and gulped. "Uh, me too! Hello?!" There was no response from Ertai. "Oh, this is going to hurt..."
Ertai closed his eyes and ears as the sounds of Armageddon roared around him. It lasted fewer than ten seconds, but it seemed like a lot longer to him. Only when the last echoes from the fall died away did he open his eyes. His shield still stood, albeit with several holes. There was a small rock imbedded in his shoulder, which he quickly dug out, grimacing all the while. Just as he began to peer outside the shield to take in his surroundings, he heard a voice yell, "Hey boy, we're still here!" That was immediately followed by a comet smashing through his barrier, sending him tumbling end over end along the ground, to finally settle feeling like he could never move again.
'Oh man...' Ertai groaned to himself. 'I'm sure Magus is out of it too, so now we're really sunk. There's nothing I can do. I am powerless... I can't even get up.' But this was followed by another thought. 'But Schala would get up. And so would Greven, and even Janus, if he were conscious. Through unbearble pain, they would get up.' Ertai slowly pushed himself up with both arms, the simple aching of his bones bringing tears to his eyes. He observed, detached, as Leng and Raganorn's boots descended in front of him.
"Kid, you should have repaired your shield after my Meteo." He dimly heard Leng. "But you didn't, and that mistake has cost you. Are you ready for the ultimate annihilation?"
"NOOOOOOO!!!" Ertai was instantly on his feet. Leng and Raganorn jumped back, surprised at the volume of his yell. "I won't be powerless!!"
"I... didn't say you were..." Leng said quietly, but Ertai's hands were already glowing brightly. Leng sighed, then turned to Raganorn. "Well, my friend, I think I just opened a big ol' can of whup ass up on both of us. I must have said just the wrong thing..."
Ertai gritted his teeth, and electricity could even be observed flowing through them. His hair crackled with energy and stood on end. Raganorn looked confused. "Why are we just standing here? Let's blast him!!"
"It won't do any good..." Leng began, but Raganorn had already executed a Ground Swell, aiming it at Ertai. It raced up to him, then seemed to bounce back as the shock wave raced through the ground until it came in contact with Leng, where it finally detonated. "Gee, thanks." Leng dusted himself off. Then, six lines of green energy appeared between Raganorn and Leng. "Uh oh..." They both turned to Ertai.
"Have a taste of the ultimate lightning!!" Electricity crackled all over the surface of his body, the bolts growing larger by the second. "Luminaaaaaiiiirrree!!!" The lines of energy converged on a central point, then blew outward, literally blowing away Raganorn and Leng. Raganorn remained down for the count, but Leng staggered back up.
He made no move. "Wait. I won't attack anymore. Just listen for a second..."
But Ertai was nearly blinded by rage at the mere sight of his enemy rising again. "Noooo!!! I have the power!! Hyaaaaaahhh!!!" Leng gulped as Ertai brought his wrists together. A bit of electricity crackled, but otherwise, nothing happened.
Leng stepped forward. "Look, I can appreciate how mad you are. I never intended for things to get this heated..." Ertai still stood frozen in the beam firing position, his face a mask of rage. "You can put your hands down now. Seriously, I'm not going to do anything else."
"Well..." The rage disappeared from Ertai's face. "At least you were right about one thing!" With that, a golden burst erupted from his hands, and a medium sized beam slammed into Leng, throwing him head over heels. Ertai suddenly wondered how to cut off the beam flow and detonate the existing energy, but he didn't have to. His beam suddenly gave out, and the energy detonated automatically when the end of the beam reached Leng. Ertai sank to his knees, feeling drained. He realized he had overexerted himself. It was similar to yelling so much that you lost your voice, but he felt the loss through his whole body.
"You see?" A gravelly voice spoke up. Ertai turned to see Magus' head lifted up from the ground. "Now THAT was chi."
"Oww..." Leng sat up. "It sure was. I suppose I deserved that."
"So let me get this straight..." Magus began. "You planned this whole fight as some kind of test? You don't really think we're controlled by a Lavoid, do you?"
Leng smiled. "I believed you from the start, but there's no room for weaklings in the fight against the Lavoid race." He stood up, then walked over and offered a hand to Magus. "If you'll come inside my fortress, I can explain in detail..."
"All forms of power... ..should be at the disposal of the powerful." - Winnowill
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