Eva snapped into being on the gate she had made within her new dormitory room. She wasn’t even that wobbly from the teleport. Still, she took a moment to steady herself before moving around.
In that moment, she glanced around. Both with her eyes and her less mundane senses.
She immediately froze.
The very first thing that she noticed was Zagan. She couldn’t see him, but she could feel him. His overwhelming presence occluded everything else. Whatever had happened, he wasn’t trying to hide in the slightest.
It was terrifying and awe inspiring at the same time. Her heart hammered in her chest, screaming at her to run despite her mind claiming that Zagan was an ally.
Eva held her ground. It was all she could do to stand still. Digging her feet into the ground, Eva focused on calming down. Deep breaths helped, but only marginally.
No other presence, not even that of Ylva’s, could be felt through Zagan’s blanket of power. Prax and Catherine had both left the prison before Eva and she couldn’t sense either of them.
Hopefully that was just Zagan overpowering them and not something worse.
Prax and Catherine should at least be nearby. Ylva would be off with Zoe and Juliana. Given that the dorm room was empty of everyone else, Eva was assuming that they were out at the apartment building. Maybe even helping Zoe pack, unaware of the event out here until Ylva arrived. Though, Juliana might be wherever her parents were staying. Even bedridden or wheelchair bound, Eva had a hard time believing that Genoa would miss what was happening at the moment.
In fact, she would be surprised if regular mortals couldn’t feel Zagan.
Eva couldn’t see anything out the window. It looked out the back of the building, away from Zagan’s presence and the main Brakket Academy building, so that wasn’t all that surprising.
What she did notice were the purple lines in the sky. Since they had first appeared, they had been somewhat dim. Faint and barely visible in the daylight while simply there after nightfall. Now they were bright and almost glowing.
Whether that was because of Zagan or because Martina had summoned so many demons was a question better left to Devon.
Of course, he hadn’t come with her.
Eva had left after everyone else because she had taken the time to warn Devon.
Even discounting the issue that he couldn’t teleport alongside her without winding up as ground meat, Devon wanted nothing to do with demon hunters. He was perfectly content to watch Brakket City burn so long as he was left alone. He had even tried to stop Eva from coming.
Something Eva would hear nothing of.
She had friends here. Friends that might need help.
Zagan could hold his own. Whatever he was doing, Eva was sure that he would come out successful. Juliana and Zoe should both be away from the school and with Ylva. Eva considered running after them, hunkering down while Zagan solved all the problems.
But Catherine was still around. Despite all of her complaining about Martina and her words earlier in the evening about lacking loyalty to others, Catherine had still come here with the intention of keeping Martina safe.
And Eva was still somewhat fond of the succubus.
So Eva would help.
Rather than run from her room, Eva opened her window and dropped straight to the ground. Three stories was a long fall, but Arachne’s legs helped to absorb much of the impact. She ran around the side of the building.
The walkway between the dormitory buildings was a torn up mess. Potholes everywhere, bricks lying about, and part of the Gillet’s front had been caved in.
An armored man stood against a winged bull. His armor was battered everywhere and even broken in several spots. He held out a sword. One that might have been beautiful with its emerald-encrusted hilt almost glowing in the evening darkness and graceful curve of the blade. But as Eva stared, she felt wary. Revulsion even. Whatever that sword was, she did not want it anywhere near her.
Zagan was looking worse for the wear. His leathery hide was covered in shallow cuts. A few were deeper, one on his muscular shoulder actually showed bone. The wound cleaned itself of blood every few seconds, making the depth clear to see.
Though, for all the wounds on Zagan, the knight might be in a worse state. Not only had he taken his fair share of the beating and had his own wounds of equal severity, but his armor was doing something to his body. Every time he moved, there was a flash. It was almost as if he was teleporting, but he obviously wasn’t. His armor carried him at speeds that human bodies weren’t meant to accelerate to and stop from so quickly.
Eva could see it in his blood.
One moment and everything was normal. The next had his blood and organs pressed up against the back of his body, only for them to lurch forwards when he stopped.
How he was still alive was anyone’s guess. Magic, probably. But it was affecting him. The visible pauses after each flash step as his body put itself back into place were evidence of that. His pausing lasted mere instants, but those instants were long enough for Zagan to capitalize on.
Zagan charged in an odd direction at the same instant that the knight flash stepped. The odd direction became far less odd as the knight appeared right in front of Zagan.
Scraping one of his horns along the ground, Zagan flicked his head upwards, catching the knight right between the legs. The knight went flying, flailing his arms and legs wildly in the air.
Zagan gave chase with a flap of his wings. His flaming hooves hit the knight in the back, crashing both of them down into the bricks.
The ground shattered after a brief moment of silence, leaving concentric circles of cracked brick and earth around the two monsters.
Eva turned away. It was hard. Zagan’s fighting was definitely worthy of watching. But he didn’t need her help. As she had thought, Zagan could handle himself.
What might need her help was at the main school building. A window near the front office area had broken, roughly in the area of Martina’s office. Dust and smoke billowed out.
If Martina was in, that would be where Catherine would have gone. There was no guarantee. Martina could have fled. Or worse, she might have been killed.
Eva didn’t have a better plan at the moment. She took off at a run, leaving the dormitory buildings and the battle behind.
The main school building wasn’t far. At a run and with a few interspersed blinks, Eva reached the broken window almost instantly.
Four circulatory systems were inside the room. Two lying on the ground and two standing upright.
The two upright were Prax and Catherine. Even if Eva hadn’t already memorized their individual blood vessel fingerprint, Prax’s bulk was unmatched by any other and Catherine had wings and a tail at the moment.
The woman who had accosted Eva in the apartment building was one of the circulatory systems on the ground. Martina was the other.
Eva’s ‘eyes’ were immediately drawn to the woman’s heart. It was beating erratically. A beat followed by a too-long pause. Three rapid beats. Another pause. To make matters more complicated, Eva couldn’t be sure that she was even breathing. Though, given the dust in the air, that might not be a bad thing.
Catherine was standing over her, fidgeting a little as if she didn’t know what to do.
Neither did Eva, but there was someone who did know.
“Martina needs to be taken to the nurse,” Eva said as she climbed over the broken glass of the window. The glass on the ground and sill wasn’t strong enough to cut her carapace. She just had to be careful where the rest of her body was. “She’s having a heart attack.”
She wasn’t really, not so long as Eva understood what a heart attack actually was, but time was of the essence and longer explanations would eat that time up.
“Catherine,” Eva said when the succubus made no motion to carry away the dean.
“I know.” There was a short sigh. Catherine’s arms slipped under Martina’s back and legs before hefting her up. “She had better appreciate me,” she said as she dashed from the room.
The nurse’s office was just down the hallway. So long as she was in at the moment, she would hopefully be able to do something. Given the late hour, Eva doubted that she would be in. Still, Catherine was the secretary. She probably knew where the nurse lived and could just head straight there.
Eva couldn’t say that she liked Martina, but she didn’t hate her enough to want her to die. In fact, she really didn’t hate her at all. Martina could be annoying on occasion, but Eva found herself more indifferent than anything.
And if she did die, there would be a lot of contracted demons running around without a contractor. At the moment, Zagan was a bit too tied up to rein them in. If he even cared enough to do so. Prax might be the only one that he focused on because of Prax’s slights toward him.
Eva would hopefully be able to convince Lucy to play nice with people, but the hellhound, morail, and Daru?
Well, Daru was likely dead.
And then there was Catherine. She wasn’t a contracted demon, but rather a familiar. Still, if Martina died, Catherine’s bonds would be broken.
“What about this one?” Prax said in a menacing growl, breaking Eva out of her thoughts.
Eva turned to the other woman—presumably a demon hunter—and found herself frowning.
Her heart rate was normal. Her blood flowed properly. There was a slight burn on one hand, but it didn’t extend deep enough below her skin to damage any real blood vessels.
And two of her fingers were tapping against the ground. Steady, rhythmic taps.
“Kill her,” Eva said, uncorking her vial of Zagan’s blood. “Quickly.”
Prax didn’t hesitate. He lifted his foot, preparing to crush the hunter’s head.
The hunter was faster. She rolled into his still planted foot.
Normally, Eva wouldn’t have expected much. Prax had bulk. Weight. Mass. The hunter, almost smaller than Eva, couldn’t be expected to move such a thing.
But she did. Whether because Prax was already unbalanced from having his other foot raised or some luck on the hunter’s part, Prax fell. His head smashed into the remains of Martina’s desk, sending splinters and papers flying around.
The hunter made it to her feet before Prax’s head hit the ground. A faint glow emanated from one of her rings. The air in front of her fingers filled with a faint white mist.
A globule of Zagan’s blood fell from the air where it had been zooming towards the hunter. It hit the floor as a ball of ice, shattering into pieces.
Beyond that, she didn’t pay any attention to Eva.
Prax was trying to get standing once again, but the hunter slipped one of her feet in the crook of his ankle and pulled. She managed to move his entire body, causing his arms to slip out from underneath him.
She jumped onto his back, knees on either side of his ribcage. One hand gripped one of Prax’s horns. The other took hold of his chin. With a flick of her arms, an audible snap echoed through the office.
Just in time for her to freeze another two globs of blood that Eva had attempted to hit her with while her back was turned. Each shattered on either side of the portal that was swallowing up Prax’s body.
The hunter got to her feet, brushing her hands off as if Prax had been covered in dust.
Though, given the blood on her hands, Eva doubted that the action was all that effective. It was merely an intimidation tactic.
Eva would be lying if she said that she wasn’t a little intimidated at the moment.
She may have taken Prax mostly by surprise, but Eva was getting serious ‘Genoa’ vibes off this hunter. Eva doubted that she would be able to take on an injured Genoa, let alone one able to walk under her own power.
The best course of action might be to simply flee back to Zagan. He would surely be able to do something.
Unless the presence of the hunter distracted him enough for the knight to get a critical hit in.
And even if Eva fled, there was no guarantee that the hunter would follow. She might chase after Catherine.
Catherine was right. She wouldn’t die. She’d be back eventually.
But she wasn’t the only one there. Martina would be with her. And maybe the nurse.
Eva might have found it amusing that she was more worried for the nurse than Martina had the hunter not decided to charge straight at her.
Blinking past the hunter to the opposite side of the room, she ignited her hands. Blood was obviously not working on this person. Granted, she had only tried twice and neither of those attempts had been her giant blood-claw. That took time, unfortunately.
Time that I really don’t have, Eva thought as she tossed a small fireball at her opponent. She didn’t have time build it up more. She didn’t have the time to stand and watch the explosion.
The hunter twisted around the fireball as an icicle flew towards Eva.
Blinking again, Eva found herself just outside of the office, looking in through the broken window.
The fireball hit the ground, erupting with little more than a snap. Like a small firework going off.
For a moment, the two just stared.
Eva didn’t remain idle while staring. She built up a fireball in each hand, both larger than the earlier one. With slightly more distance between them, Eva actually had the time to do so.
“What are you? You’re not a demon.”
Eva opened her mouth to deny that claim. Except, perhaps she wasn’t a demon just yet. A few more treatments.
In the mean time…
The hunter blinked, confusion radiating from her eyes. The confusion gave way to about three other expressions, all competing for dominance. Anger, disgust, and maybe a little excitement. She then blinked again.
“Oh,” she said. “Ohhh, you’re the person that nun was talking about. I have to admit, I wasn’t paying much attention. She was kind of annoying. No. Really, really annoying. She kept going on and on about… well, you. I suppose.”
Waving her hand, the hunter opened her mouth to continue rambling. “Doesn’t really matter–”
As the hunter waved her hand, Eva caught a light glow on her rings.
Without hesitation, Eva blinked.
She snapped into being back inside the office, just to the side of the hunter.
Eva dropped both of her firebombs as a boulder made of ice crashed down into the window right where she had been standing.
Window blocked off, Eva blinked to a corner of the room and uncorked a vial of blood. Her own blood, all of Zagan’s blood was lying frozen on the floor. She formed up a blood shield around herself. All in the time it took for the two firebombs to fall to the floor.
Heat and flames filled the room. Strong enough that Eva could feel a small portion of it through her shield. Much of the already wrecked room turned to cinders. What wasn’t burnable was crushed under the pressure of the two bombs’ shock waves.
Eva’s shield was included in that second category. Demon blood would have been able to stand up to the explosions. Only using her own blood, the shield cracked and shattered after only a few moments of staying up.
Luckily, most of the power in the explosions had already been used up by the time the fractured shield collapsed. All that was left was the fire and the heat.
Neither really bothered Eva.
Except, there was more left behind. One thing stood out.
A pillar of ice, stretching from the ground to the ceiling.
Eva didn’t need her blood sight to tell that the hunter was still alive within.
Uncorking every vial of blood that she had left, Eva formed it all into a massive ball made up of thin rings. The rings all circled around each other, gathering to form a frame of blood wires. Spell set, she plunged both hands into the ball.
Two car-sized hands of blood, mirrors of Eva’s claws, appeared in the room in front of her. Eva pushed her hands farther into the rings of blood. The larger versions of her hands moved together, one of them scraping into a wall and tearing it apart as it continued forwards.
The palms of her blood-hands hit the ice pillar. Eva gripped it and squeezed.
Cracks formed in the ice, starting as small fractures before growing into larger and thicker crevasses.
The hunter was actually panicking now. Her accelerated heart rate and more frantic movements within the pillar were unusually satisfying.
At least, it was until her blood claws started to freeze. They were huge, several hundred times the size of the small globs of Zagan’s blood that the hunter had frozen earlier. But locked around the pillar of ice, slowly crushing it, ice started to form on the palms of the hands.
Eva redoubled her efforts, pressing her hands together as hard as she could, forcing more and more magic into the ball of blood to keep the hands under her control for as long as possible.
The top half of the pillar broke off, collapsing into one of the hands. Eva pulled her real hand out of the ball as if she had been stung. The blood forming the hand fell to the ground, forming a large pool of inert liquid.
Glancing down, Eva found small amounts of frost shining white against the normally black carapace of her hand.
Eva grit her teeth and focused on her remaining hand, crushing the top of the already damaged pillar where it was more brittle.
With the hand still freezing over, it was fighting against time.
And Eva didn’t feel like she was winning.
Pulling her hand away from the pillar, Eva lifted it up and over the broken top. Curling the hand into a fist, she slammed it back down.
The hand fell apart, shards of blood and ice scattered everywhere. Most of it went into the pillar of ice through a hole at the top from where the upper part had broken off.
The shards rained down on the inside, each as sharp as knives, cutting into the hunter.
Unfortunately, that was all they were. Tiny knives. Inflicting nothing more than superficial wounds on the woman inside her makeshift shield.
A moment of silence passed. Eva started building up more compressed flames. Dropping them into the top might be her best option.
Rather than tossing the fledgling fireballs, Eva found herself extinguishing them as she dove to the side.
The pillar exploded outwards. Not in shards, but heavy chunks each at least the size of a large brick.
On the ground and curled into a ball, Eva clasped her hands over her head. Just in time to feel a brick of ice hit the chitin on her arm. It sent a hairline fracture up the carapace, but nothing more.
Eva remained on the ground for a moment after the last brick had struck the wall. Just in case.
A moment too long.
The hunter jumped on top of her. Bleeding from hundreds of tiny cuts, the woman clasped a hand around Eva’s throat. Her other hand grasped towards Eva’s face.
Seeing where the woman was aiming all too clearly, Eva used both of her hands to keep her open hand away. Eva could do without a little air for a short time. She had lost her eyes once already and that was beyond enough for her.
Having been curled up, Eva’s legs were crunched up against her chest.
Between her body and the hunter.
Eva found herself grinning despite the vice-like grip on her neck. She kicked with both legs, sending the woman flying across the room with her letting out a short scream.
Flipping back to her feet, Eva rubbed her throat as the hunter got to her feet.
And she found her fingers running over her bare neck.
Thoughts of the hunter gone, Eva turned her attention to the floor around her. Searching, eyes roaming over everything.
“Looking for this?”
Eva’s eyes snapped to the hunter.
One hand was held up in front of her. From it, a thin black band dangled, swaying slightly in the air. A small black sphere hung off the band.
“Give that back!”
“Hmm,” she hummed, tapping a finger to her chin. “You know? I don’t think I will.” She dropped the band, not taking her eyes off Eva as it bounced lightly against the floor. Moving the tip of her shoe over the beacon, the hunter grinned. Her voice took on a sing-song tune as she spoke. “I wonder what would happen if it were destroyed.”
“I said. Give. That. Back.”
The hunter cut herself off. She blinked, taking her eyes off Eva and giving a glance around the room.
Eva took a step forward.
The hunter took her foot off the beacon. She had to in order for her to take a step backwards. She didn’t make it very far. When Eva had kicked her, she had slammed into a wall and hadn’t moved far from it. Far enough for a single step.
As Eva took another step forward, the hunter’s face twisted into a snarl.
She lifted up her foot and brought her heel down on the beacon.
As if in slow motion, Eva watched as the orb cracked and shattered to dust. A spiderweb of cracks started from her heel and spread out over the surface. The webs contained within exploded outwards, latching onto the hunter’s foot.
Eva saw red.
— — —
It is time.