Women step out of the mansion with their newborn held close to their chests in warm cloth and their luggage to their backs as I stare with illogical happiness in my heart.
Liz and I almost even forget the threats surrounding us but not quite. Many among the twelve appear dissatisfied but they also seem resigned as if they’d expected events to turn this way.
“You shouldn’t have come.” Joah, the pregnant one, berates.
“Elizabeth sent her, sister.” Leah intervenes.
“She didn’t.” I correct, caring very little about their opinions even though we’re ready to risk our lives to keep them safe. “Liz insisted I keep you safe but she doesn’t ‘send’ me.”
“Either way, you shouldn’t have involved us.” Joah grumbles and walks off.
Three men and a donkey step out of an alley that runs along the mansion. This feels like the start of a joke except the men are armed and somber looking while the donkey is charged with luggage.
With the words exchanged between the sisters, Hilda’s glare, the distance the crowd keeps with me, it doesn’t take long for the new arrivals to figure out I’m the issue.
Marie waves them off, showing herself as the leader. Their group quickly gathers but the men don’t go to any of the women. Their behavior seems to be that of guards. I turn my eyes to the roofs to pick a path.
“Can we trust her? Really?”
“We confirmed she knows Elizabeth.” Marie says.
“So what? I’m thankful but I don’t want to get involved.”
“We already are.” Hilda grunts.
“We will be for sure if we run with her.”
“Can we even make it out of the city? I say we go to the slums to hide out for a while.”
“There were spies watching us, and they attacked her! The guard tried to arrest us all because of it.”
“So what? That’s her problem! We’re not involved.”
“Enough!” Marie snaps. “Are any of you willing to spend the night in jail even with a promise we would be released by morning?”
“Then that settles it.” Marie utters. “Hilda, lead the way.”
I hear regular stomping not far away. They took too long in the end. Liz lifts her eyelids just a sliver in our mind. I flick my hood back and grab my helmet which is hanging on my left side at my belt. I slip it on my head and walk up to one of the walls.
I use Vikiana’s diagrams and visualization technique. Flow falls into grooves and I leap up. I stomp on the edge of a window before reaching the apex of my jump and propel myself further. I grab the border of the roof and jerk myself atop the roof, landing in a crouch.
Small cries erupt behind me but I ignore them to walk on the roofs towards the incoming threats. I find three patrols of city guards jogging along a parallel street with two women and one man wearing regular clothes but with swords at their waists.
They spot me before the city guards do and point them at me. I hop along the roofs to pass by them while ignoring calls for me to stop. The patrols stop and start organizing to chase me but some keep going towards the mansion.
Energy loops inside my head and time slows down. I side-kick the tiles to propel myself down in the middle of them. In the air, I expel flow from my legs to prepare to absorb and redirect the kinetic energy resulting from my landing.
The guards raise their spears, I adjust a portion of the energy to control the surrounding air and softly move the points away from me. My body slips through the dozen spears and impacts the ground.
Thump. The soft sound and a thick cloud of dust is the only result of my five-meter fall. I burnt three portions for this opportunity. I grin as I seize control of the air around us with ten portions.
With a poor line of sight, it would be very difficult to figure out their positions, but they’re so closely packed together that all it takes is for me to close the air around me like tightening a fist.
The air stiffens and violently gathers, causing the thirty guards to be thrown at my feet. Having burnt two-thirds of the energy, I send the last of to create a kinetic impact at the center of the pile.
Thump. The guards are propelled outward, no doubt knocking many out and no doubt disarming even more. I turn to the east and casually walk out of the dust cloud, leaving my pursuers groaning and whining.
A long silver silhouette appears behind my back. I ignore it until it is thrown at me. I angle my torso to the side, dodging a spear charged with quite a bit of flow, and Liz snatches it out of the air.
I break the thrower’s link to the flow with the twist of a thought, burning one portion to steal six from this armor-piercing construct. I make the spear twirl inside my palm before throwing it aside under the baffled gazes of merchants and their costumers who just now spotted the thirty guards on the ground.
Furious at having been played like children, they soon get back to their feet but they don’t dare pursue. I hear from afar that many are worried I’m a Noble despite the assurances from spies that I’m not.
I leap back on top of a roof and keep going eastward with a low profile, quickly finding the small caravan of women with Marie in the lead. I follow them from out of their sight across several blocks until two patrols arrive at a plaza they went past.
The city guards interrogate people at the Templar shrine who answer. I prepare to go screw with them but then, these forty guards split up to go explore the south. I blink, quite puzzled by the misinformation.
I hear a commotion ahead near the caravans so I put this odd event out of my mind. Another patrol emerged from an alley north just ahead of Marie. I cross several roofs with a few leaps and throw myself across the street as the woman starts talking to the officer.
“Shit!” One of the three men swears.
He tries to draw his sword but Hilda stops him. I stiffen the air around me to guide my fall. My feet hit the officer’s shoulders, causing him to be propelled back into his subordinates.
They manage to catch him, and don’t impale him thanks to the fact they held their spears up, but the man is unconscious. The city guards behind move forward to attack me but I use the flow I stole to create a conical shape.
The sharp spear tips impotently slide on the solid golden air. Before they can even try again, I launch the cone between their ranks, throwing the entire patrol into the alley’s walls.
I ignore their whining to turn to Marie who’s staring with a blank face. I wave her along to the east without a word and head out in front of them. A hand then lands on my shoulder and grips.
I’ve snapped around while leaning forward before the cold chill in my back even manages to spread. The fingers close merely on my cloak, which almost rips it off me. I rise to my full height to add power to the uppercut I release.
The woman is one of those who complained, one of those I rescued. She has a tiny cute baby. I barely manage to restrain my strength before my knuckles hit her chin. My fist hits, not very hard, but it surprises her so much she stumbles back.
“Don’t.” I utter coldly while rearranging my cloak.
“You’re a cripple?!” The woman exclaims with a look of horror.
“And you’re an idiot.” I snap. “I could have killed you.”
“You’re going to get us killed!” She protests with a hysteric voice and an expression to match.
“I’ve barely even tapped into my reserves yet, just keep walking and don’t stop.” I dismiss under the group’s hostile gazes. “Keep delaying and they’ll find their guts.” I add, glancing at the groaning city guards.
“Let’s go!” Marie orders.
During the travel east, I get rid of three more patrols and oddly no more as it seems the further away from the center of Meiridin we get, the less the inhabitants who saw the group cooperate with the city guard.
It likely doesn’t help that the capital is low on manpower because the soldiers that remained are escorting caravans of supplies south and the city guard is now also responsible for holding the walls.
In the end, I arrive at the eastern gate a bit late with only forty portions of energy to find that their group was stopped and surrounded by two patrols who are in turn being surrounded by a small crowd curious about what’s going on.
“You’re low born. Who’s your Liege? Do you have permission to travel? Why take children out?” A sturdy lieutenant questions.
Marie remains silent and so does the rest of the group despite their clear state of nervousness and unease. The guards don’t seem to realize that the three men in their group have swords underneath their coats despite them having put their hands on the protruding scabbards. Neither do they seem to see the knives under their clothes or behind their babies.
“The city is under alert, there is a criminal attacking the guard and your group has been reported to be in the middle of it, I’m going to need an explanation right now or I’ll be forced to arrest you.” The officer presses impatiently while keeping a wary eye on the crowd.
It seems to me like this one hasn’t been briefed, or on the contrary knows enough to want to give these women a way out. He’s probably been sent here urgently as the city guard scrambled. He might be receptive, and if not, the crowd could be convinced to help.
I scoff at the idea to waste so much time and flick my cloak wide open, showing off my cuirass and the two broadswords at my waist. Several city guards spot me and the crowd splits away from me.
“I’m Jessica Freepath, the one you’re looking for.” I declare loudly.
The lieutenant turns his hard gaze my way. He frowns and then waves at his guards to go arrest me while gathering flow in his left hand as he moves in with them. I raise my right hand and unsheathe the sword on my back, causing all of them to slow down on their approach.
“Stop!” Marie exclaims. “She was defending herself! There was never a legitimate reason to arrest her to begin with.”
“Now you speak.” The officer utters coldly. “I advise to turn away and return from where you came from or you’ll be taken away alongside her.”
“You’ll learn of your mistake in blocking my way soon enough, and the extent of the mercy I’m extending as well.” I utter with a corner smile.
“Arrogant!” The lieutenant exclaims. “Girl, I am a Noble, lay down your weapon and surrender quietly!”
“Oh, do you have a title?” I ask with interest.
“He doesn’t, but I do.” A raspy voice intervenes. “I am Count…”
“Didn’t ask your name, couldn’t care less.” I interrupt without bothering to turn my eyes to the lean figure that showed up.
“Arrest all these runaway peasants!” The Count snaps towards the lieutenant and the city guards he brought along while keeping his cold eyes on me.
They don’t hesitate and close in on the group, causing a commotion as there are children and the crowd quickly learned who these women were because they’re somewhat famous for their escape from the institute.
“Wait!” Marie exclaims panically, causing some to hesitate.
“The law is the law, arrest them.” The lieutenant orders his subordinates with a rather sad expression.
The crowd starts grumbling towards the snap judgment. I raise my right hand at the Count to try to control the events, causing the man to raise his but towards the people who tried to block the city guards.
They quickly disperse in panic, making several city guards stumble. The women, panicking, gather back to back and draw their knives which causes the city guards to lower their spears at them. No more mercy.
“Anyone who hinders my path from this point, I will lay to the ground. Marie, leave as soon as possible.” I declare as Liz begins awakening.
Keep resting, I’ll have this under control soon. The lieutenant moves to face me. The Moebisus strip in my head spins, my enemies’ movements slow down to a crawl, the sounds that reach my ears are distorted.
I disperse the flow stored in my single-edged broadswords to gain control of my surroundings. I flash forward, flicking my broadsword at the lieutenant who tries to block with his sword while launching a fireball from his left hand.
I spin on my heel. The flames pass behind my back. My wrist-guard hits the man’s cheekbone while the pommel of my broadsword hits the back of his head. The lieutenant drops like a stone.
I rush forth with two lion’s steps, avoiding unrelated people to push towards a group of city guards. I slash out with my sword, leading a blunt air-blade in the center of a group of city guards.
The construct launches and impacts their torsos, propelling them directly into another group to crash on the pavement with them. I rush to my left, dodging a silver air-needle aimed at my throat. It pierces the pavement behind me.
Spears are quickly turned towards me. Those holding them have pale faces and wide eyes, having never expected to face such a skillful opponent. I imbue my weapon with a kinetic construct and direct that energy with a shredding construct.
A single wide slash shatters six of the spears. With them disarmed, naught prevents me from lion’s stepping to the Count. The man must realize as much because I catch silver energy streaming outside my field of vision towards him.
The flow soon appears in front of my eyes, golden in appearance and emerging from most of the city guards. I narrow my eyes and laugh mockingly, causing the Noble to scowl.
“It’ easy to call flow, it is not to return it.” I explain with a corner smile.
The man raises his hand and shapes an air-blade with the energy he’s gathering. It’s so wide that, if he launches it, it’ll no doubt catch spectators not to mention others.
But, even if he doesn’t care or wishes to eliminate the group I’m protecting, he won’t use it if it’ll miss me. And so, I lion’s step around the city guards and start eliminating them one group at a time with ease because of their lack of flow to fuel defensive or lion constructs.
I burn a dozen portions swirling around destroying spears and knocking people out. I focus on clearing the avenue in front of the eastern gates because more city guards are arriving, opening the way for Marie and her group until the only threat that remains is the Count.
There are other city guards that could reinforce but they have odd stains on their uniforms and seem more focused on holding a large crowd back than arresting me or runaway peasants.
A fat woman slowly brings down her arm. A rotten tomato lazily leaves her palm and flies over a city guard’s head. It crosses the avenue and impacts the Count’s left shoulder, leaving a brown and red stain on his uniform. I chuckle as the man turns bright red and instinctively turns the air-blade at the crowd which hurriedly splits in front of it.
I’m pretty sure the crowd is less helping me than showing defiance at the Noble for threatening to use such a deadly construct against a group of women that seem to only be protecting their children.
It’s a bit of an unfair judgment because he could have tried to use it a dozen times against these women, even though I would have stopped him. The Count suddenly snaps back to me and his air-blade suddenly compresses right before it launches.
I grin and create a solid air-shield with a single portion that has a slit in the middle the broadsword I’m already bringing down with a sundering construct making the blade glow golden.
The construct bursts upon impact with my blade. The resulting violent gust of wind impacts my air-shield and I slide back a few meters. I leap forth at the Count to eliminate him only to find my sundering construct losing coherence.
Despite the man’s obvious shock at the ease with which I dispatched his attack, he didn’t forget to activate the disruption construct he prepared. I keep rushing straight even as the man launches a side-swipe with his sword because I can feel my chest grow stiff so I don’t want to engage in abrupt straining maneuvers.
I parry the blow with an upward flick of my wrist and lean back to slide under the blade. The Count takes a step back to keep a safe distance but my broadsword is already arcing down at his forward knee, forcing him to take another step back.
Marie and her group start sneaking around us so I restrain myself to a series of lazy blows to keep everyone’s attention on the fight while using my footwork to go around him and ensure I can’t be attacked from behind.
If I win too quickly, the city guards might try to go after them. A handful of them try to stab me with their spears but I dodge and even redirect some of the attacks at the Count, further frustrating the man who seems completely baffled by my ability to stay on the move while fighting.
The last of the group, Hilda, crosses the gate. The Count locks swords and tries to seize the stubbed leather bands covering my right shoulder. I angle a bit and side-step to stop him but he then tries to seize the side of my flickering cloak.
I frown and abruptly twist my broadsword to my right, causing the blade of his sword to fall on his own wrist. It leaves a small gash that causes the man to pale as if he’d never been injured before.
I compress the Moebisus strip and angle my sword forward towards his throat. Panicking, the man lion’s step back. I follow within a split second and slash from right to left at the side of his sword, causing it to be jerked to the side which leaves his chest wide open.
I twist my right arm clockwise and stab forth, plunging the tip of my blade in his shoulder. It merely pierces a few centimeters in but this much is enough. I lion’s step to the right a moment before a spear-tip appears at the position I held a split-moment ago.
With this disturbance, the Count has almost regained his footing and deactivated his disruption construct as prove by the dozen air-needles he’s assembling.
I apply unstructured flow to my blade and destroy them all in three quick slashes. With his concentration focused on these construct, he then fails to retract his blade before mine falls on his right wrist.
As I hadn’t put much strength in my strike, it doesn’t completely cut through his hard leather armor or bones but I cut enough that his thumb is likely disabled.
Instead of pulling my broadsword back, I directly tear it out of his limb with a lion strike to slam his face with the flat. The Count drops in a cloud of golden energy. He apparently had a last resort.
I link to the energy and seize it, recuperating four portions at almost no cost because he’s unconscious. I then lion’s leap at the gates and flip a hundred-eighty degrees to land facing the city guards. A handful of guards are pulling the Count back while two squads are trying to head straight for me through a hostile crowd.
I sheathe my weapon and gather all my flow in my palm, including that I kept in my reserve, which represents around forty to fifty portions. The sheer quantity of energy I not only possess but haven’t even needed to beat the Count causes guards to stop in their tracks and the crowd to fall silent.
“I’ve been forgiving enough about this.” I utter coldly. “I may be a peasant but that does not mean I recognize titled Nobles as rulers. The next time, I will draw blood whether it is of house Cenwalh, Roskal, or any lapdog in their service.”
Shock appears on a multitude of faces at my disdain for Nobility. My words will no doubt cause whoever is in charge right now to send everything they have after me, hopefully that will include the so-called ‘Wraith’ as well or cause them to call him back so that he can go after all.
I turn and leave the city at a jogging pace while supporting my muscles with far more flow than I need to ensure my heart won’t cramp. No patrols pursue. A few projectiles are shot at me from the ballistas on the walls but they’re not aimed well and all I have to do is zigzag a bit to stay safe.