Across the entire ritual circle, everyone reacted in some way or another. Well, everyone except for Saija. Being passed out apparently afforded her some protection against Eva’s command.
Zoe, being already on her knees, didn’t react much either. Her head bowed down. Not to the point where it hit the floor, but just a nod. Which was perfectly fine with Eva. She had no desire to cause the woman any further pain.
The two most affected were Catherine and Srey. Both hit the ground hard enough that they would have made Eva wince had she not been focusing on their other guest. It was a good thing that they were demons; a human would have cracked their kneecaps. Hopefully Catherine would forgive her considering the circumstances.
As for the charging hunter, she fell to the ground in a heap. Yet, Eva wasn’t sure she had actually tried to kneel. Her momentum was at fault. The command had disrupted her legs just enough, just a twitch, that she hadn’t been able to place one foot in front of the other. With all the force of her charge, she soon started rolling across the floor.
Eva didn’t have time to stand around and admire the work of her command.
While the hunter pushed herself up, her arm burrowed into the ground.
Eva threw herself to the side, just in time to avoid the arm coming up just in front of her. As she flew through the air, ten little orbs of blood formed from her fingers. She flung them out, seemingly at random.
While the hunter had to roll to one side and immediately froze five of the blood spheres, leaving a portion of her arm behind as a parasitic worm—which Eva immediately started flinging more blood at—two orbs scattered to the winds. The final three landed almost right on top of Zoe. Eva hoped the professor would get a clue and dip the stub of her arm into the conveniently bowl-shaped puddle. She couldn’t spare the thought to actually direct it around while her own blood was hurtling back towards her as razor-sharp spears of ice, but she would be able to harden it to prevent a total bleed out.
As for the icicles racing at her, Eva snapped her fingers. A shower of snow rained down around her while she advanced on the hunter.
A little trick. The hunter only froze liquid. So by turning the core of the orbs of blood crystalline, she retained full control. It might not have been wise, blowing her secret so soon, but the look on the hunters face made it worth it.
Oh yes. She was going to enjoy this. Her catharsis in beating down the hunter had yet to be satisfied. She had to be quick though, and couldn’t be careless. Rage and minor feelings of immortality had led to her defeat before. She could have easily ended it then had she simply torn out the hunter’s throat. If she got the opportunity, she had to take it.
The hunter didn’t stay stunned for long. In fact, she had already started moving before her expression fully solidified into shock.
Eva flicked her arm to one side, extending a blade of crystalline blood out just in time to catch the hunter’s curved sword. She didn’t stay in a blade-lock for long. A slight shift of her footwork and a liquefaction of her own blade sent the hunter’s sword harmlessly through the air.
She froze the droplets of blood, of course. Fast enough that she had probably enchanted her sword—or her person—with some liquid freezing spell. Not fast enough to catch her sword.
Which left Eva to thrust forward with her now shortened blade of blood.
The hunter didn’t even change her expression as an inch-deep gap appeared in the muscle of her human arm—should she even have that much muscle after being bed-bound for half a year? Her arm simply twisted, angling her blade and thrusting upwards in a move that Eva had to dodge by blinking behind.
Dodging put enough space between her and the hunter that Eva felt safe enough to split her attention for a half second.
Zoe, displaying perhaps the natural human reaction to a puddle of blood next to them, had not dipped her arm into it. So Eva did it for her. The black pool lurched out, wrapping around her arm. Zoe let out a slight yelp of surprise, then one of pain as Eva pinched and crimped the end of her arm with the rapidly crystallizing blood.
A clipped chuckle forced Eva to turn back to the hunter.
Who had her eyes locked on Zoe and her arm already in motion, stretching out towards the professor.
Eva nearly blinked inside Zoe in her frantic haste to get to her. Far less gently than she should have, Eva shoved Zoe out of the way.
“Tele–” was as far as she got before the hunter’s hand wrapped around her.
Contrary to what she had expected, the fist did not toss her clear to the opposite side of the ritual circle. She jolted back from the initial strike only to suffer whiplash as the fingers closed around her and pulled her straight back to the waiting hunter.
Waiting with a blade set to pierce through Eva’s rapidly approaching stomach, that was.
Eva blinked out of the hunter’s grip just in time to avoid getting yet another hole in her. She reappeared just behind the hunter, turning her arms into razor-sharp claws.
The hunter didn’t give her a chance to strike. Spinning her blade around into a reverse grip, she thrust backwards with a mad cry of rage. Eva backed away just enough. The tip of the blade actually nicked a tiny cut in her chest.
Before dying, Eva hadn’t been concerned in the slightest about being stabbed, skewered, or otherwise injured. She had marched towards the hunter relentlessly. Which had allowed her to get close enough to knock the hunter down and punch a few teeth out.
Accepting no injuries this time around, she was finding it difficult to strike back.
Thankfully, Zoe had understood Eva’s interrupted order. With the hand of blackened fingernails, she used the hunter’s distraction to pull her wand from her pocket. In a strange set of prioritization, she vanished her severed arm and all the pieces of her damaged dagger into her holding space before teleporting herself, disappearing mere instants before the hunter’s extended arm could reach her a second time.
Crying out a shout of frustration, the hunter whirled to face Eva.
They danced around for a time. Blade slashed here. Blood exploded there. Fist extended. Claws raked. The liquid in her arms and legs kept forming tiny ice crystals, only to be rebuffed by the constant fire magic that Eva poured into herself. Annoying but necessary. If she had had more time, she might have tried to draw some heating runes into herself. Or simply try to cast some passive heating aura to counteract the hunter’s freezing aura. But either option would have taken just too much concentration during their back and forth.
Five full minutes of neither of them gaining a distinct advantage passed before Eva finally grew fed up. She wasn’t doing anything. Nothing lasting, at least. It was only a small consolation that the hunter hadn’t hurt her either. She wasn’t making any progress in killing the hunter, which meant that the hunter was winning. The more time wasted, the higher chance that Devon finished his ritual and decided to ignore Eva’s request to wait.
Something Eva was expecting to happen.
Not only was she wasting time, she wasn’t even getting that cathartic release in the process by pummeling the hunter into pulp.
Something had to change.
The hunter stumbled again. Just a slight stumble. Something so small that Eva might not have noticed it had she not been looking for it. Unlike last time, she did not fall to the ground in a heap of tangled limbs.
Instead, she looked up with some cross between a mad grin and a hate-filled scowl. “You tried that trick already,” she shouted as both Catherine and Srey returned to their knees. “It won’t work again!”
Eva clenched her teeth together hard enough that they might have broken had they not been demonic in nature. She didn’t really understand what she was doing when she shouted like that, but it seemed to work on all the other demons and it was similar to the thing that Ylva had done a handful of times in the past—which had never been resisted by Ylva’s subjects as far as Eva knew. Was it simply a matter of willpower? If Ylva were here, she would probably be able to force the hunter to get on the ground and lick her toes and make the hunter like it as well.
Which was another point in Eva’s growing frustration with the situation. Srey and Catherine were still the only two here. Besides the passed out Saija. Srey hadn’t even thrown a punch. Catherine had looked fancy while dancing away from the hunter, but she hadn’t been able to attack back. Eva hadn’t seen any evidence that Catherine had tried, but she was assuming that the succubus’ enthrallment wasn’t working either. Perhaps if they had ended up doing one more of her treatments, she would have been able to properly fight back against a foe of this caliber.
But Eva had expected someone to arrive and help out. Genoa maybe. Juliana or even Wayne were good alternates. Even just some random security guards or demons from around Brakket Academy. Yes, they had enigmas attacking the school—as evidenced by the one she had nearly crushed while jumping out of the dormitory window—but Zoe had disappeared five minutes ago. Eva assumed that she disappeared to the infirmary where everyone else should be. Even if she had passed out immediately after appearing, someone should have noticed her missing arm and gone to investigate!
Fuming, Eva stood stock still with her arms bent from the strain of tense muscles against bone. At least for as far as bone and muscles went before turning to liquid blood.
The hunter’s corrupted arm extended after her once again. She didn’t wince as it grasped around her, squeezing her tight. Neither did she care if it were drawing her into the hunter or pushing her far away. The moment the fingers clasped around her torso, Eva sprung into motion.
Her limbs of blood whipped around, losing their human shape as their ends turned to sharp spears of crystal. The sharp spears did as sharp spears were wont to do and pierced straight into the limb. They twisted, drilling into the arm as deep as they could go.
The hand tried to release Eva as it drew back to the hunter. Its fingers splayed out wide. With Eva connected to her arms and legs, she stayed pressed up against the hand.
Eva stopped her drills of blood. She was getting closer to the hunter and had no doubts that a sword would be waiting for her if she did not get off.
However, she wasn’t done yet. The four spears split apart into a hundred needle-thin strands. Each strand burrowed through the arm. Some took the path of least resistance and swam straight through existing veins of blood, blocking the entire vein as they moved. Others pressed through dense muscle. They didn’t make it as far up the arm as the vein needles did, but as the arm compressed down, they still ended up burrowing further than they should have.
Eva cut her arms and legs off at the skin of the arm, almost falling to the ground out of the open hands until she blinked forwards. She returned to existence behind the hunter once again. It was the point safest from the sword.
Not, however, safest from the shards of ice that the hunter filled the air with the second she disappeared. She didn’t fling them at Eva. They simply hung in the air.
One shard wound up in Eva’s stomach. A thin slit right through her stomach lining, leaking into the rest of her chest. A few other tiny blades caused other lacerations. Nothing life threatening. At least, nothing in her brain. For everything else, Eva merely redirected some of her own blood to patch up her injuries.
As she did so, she snapped her newly formed fingers together.
A muffled thump came from the hunter’s arm. Veins burst, sending violet blood everywhere; like a series of gopher tunnels blown up by ignited gas with strips of flesh replacing the dirt. Smoke started to leak from across the entire arm, all the way up to just before the eyeball at the shoulder. The veins were only evidence of superficial wounds, however.
The real damage was inside.
A few tendrils of Eva’s blood had wrapped around the bone. Though much thicker and… stretchier than even a thigh bone, it didn’t hold up to her blood magic. She had concentrated a decent amount of blood right around the elbow in the hopes of completely blowing off the lower half of her arm as well.
Unfortunately, it looked like she would have to settle for it hanging limp at the hunter’s side.
The screaming hunter, Eva realized as she took a few steps backwards. Just enough to dodge a swing of the sword. The swing crashed hard into the ground, lacking the modicum of elegance and control that the hunter had displayed so far. It hit so hard that the blade’s tip actually snapped.
The hunter dropped the rest of the sword. In a momentary flash, a thin rapier appeared in her already thrusting hand.
Eva’s step back took her just barely out of range. It still scraped against her bare chest, but not enough to puncture her skin.
Cold ice jutted off the tip of the blade before Eva could take another step. The ice pressed into her chest, driving straight through her lung and heart before reaching the other side.
The hunter put on a victorious grin, even laughing. “Come back again. I dare you.”
Eva grasped at the rapier with her hands, leaving a trail of slime-like blood as she staggered back, gasping. Something that only had the hunter laughing harder.
Absolutely insane, that one. Was it the loss of her partner or had she been that mad before? Eva couldn’t say. Soon, it wouldn’t even matter.
Behind the hunter, Catherine and Srey both moved forwards at the sight of Eva being stabbed. Eva wasn’t sure what they were going to do. They hadn’t done anything so far. But they hardly mattered anymore either.
Looking down, Eva watched as the spike of ice came out of her chest. The nearly transparent crystal had its entire tip stained black. Blood sprayed from the hole, splattering against the ground.
She watched it fall with a wide grin on her face.
Eva snapped her fingers. The blood coating the icicle and the slimy blood—just thick enough to avoid triggering the freezing aura—exploded. Metal and ice went flying, cutting off the hunter’s maniacal laughter.
The heart was merely a means of transporting blood around her body. What need had she of such a redundant organ. She had served as a heart for Genoa once. Obviously she could do a better job with her own blood that she had complete and total control over. Some of the injury, she simply healed. Blood plugged up the rest while she ensured that her liquid blood kept flowing within her veins.
“I heard a story about a man who could summon an infinite number of swords,” she said slowly as a small dagger appeared in the hunter’s hand. The same dagger that had sent her to Hell not so long ago. “I wonder how many you have left.”
She screamed, pointing the dagger at Eva more like a wand than a bladed weapon. Eva blinked just in time to avoid an explosion at its tip.
A narrow chunk of the ritual circle turned to slag where the dagger had been aimed. The very rock turned bright red. Some parts melted entirely.
It had Eva thinking that maybe she had deserved to die the first time around. She hadn’t exactly been cognizant of what her body had absorbed last time.
With the hunter’s large arm being nothing more than dead weight, Eva half jumped, half blinked to the woman’s side. But she didn’t stay there. Eva blinked away, intentionally leaving a portion of herself behind.
A snap of her fingers detonated the hanging arms and legs, sending the hunter sprawling over the ground from the force. The dagger skidded across the surface of the stone ritual circle.
Right to Eva.
She stepped on the blade, coating the entire thing in a thick layer of blood. Before she could snap her fingers, the hunter, still lying on the ground, opened her hand wide.
The dagger reappeared between her fingertips.
Still coated in blood.
Blood and viscera—mostly red but with a slight purple hue—exploded at the stump of the hunter’s arm. She screamed out. Nothing articulate. Just random noise of pain, anger, and hatred.
Eva didn’t give her a chance to teleport or come up with any other plan. Blinking right on top of the hunter, she thrust her foot into the half-human, half-enigma maw, filling it with blood.
She didn’t even back away before snapping her fingers.
One moment, the wide eyes of the hunter were staring up at Eva.
The next moment, the wide eyes of the hunter were flying across the ritual circle with no skull to contain them.
Eva stared down at the headless corpse, panting for breath. Maybe having a lung damaged was a slight issue. But only slight. She could manage. Humans—or demons—had two lungs for a reason. She stared, looking for any sign of motion. With the mutation on its back and arm, Eva wasn’t going to take any chances.
Even though it hadn’t moved in the short time it took Catherine and Srey to finish walking up to her, Eva started stuffing the entire body with blood. Especially around the massive eye and the already damaged arm.
“You’re looking a little shorter.”
Eva glared up at Catherine without stopping the blood filling. Her glare apparently came intense enough that both demons took a step back.
Though the succubus might have a point. Eva had used up enormous quantities of blood throughout that fight. Especially in her final few attacks; leaving behind most of her arms and legs and the spears of blood that disabled the hunter’s arm should have run her blood supply completely dry. If her legs were only a few inches shorter because of it, she wasn’t about to complain.
She just about complained about the lack of assistance she had received during the fight, but thought better of it.
“The enigma I brought with me,” Eva said, pointing a vague hand towards the edge of the ritual circle. “Drag it over to the middle, just next to the avatar.”
“You have a plan?”
Eva grinned. She could taste a little blood on her sharp teeth, though couldn’t say exactly where it had come from. “Oh yes,” she said. “We’re going to shove this lobotomized hunk of flesh back into Life’s skull. Or whatever passes as one for Powers.”