The Final Battle, Pt I

Lily closed the distance between herself and her opponent in an instant. Reacting quickly, Vessel rapidly brought her blade upward to cleave through Lily’s torso, but Lily’s buckler shimmered and disappeared, reappearing on her other arm, allowing her to easily block the attack. Immediately, the shield shimmered again and appeared on her back, just in time to block a barrage of magical swords. Lily took advantage of the brief opening generated by Vessel’s sword rebounding off the shield, getting close within Vessel’s guard and delivering a single, powerful blow. Vessel soared back, driven by the force of the impact, and had to perform a backflip to correct her position, skidding along the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust. From the depths of this cloud, Vessel surged toward Lily, blade held at the ready, moving at speeds beyond human ability. Lily narrowed her eyes. If she had still been fully human, she would not have been able to perceive the oncoming attack. With her heightened senses and processing capabilities, she could clearly see Vessel’s approach and could thus act appropriately.

As her opponent flew toward her, almost within her guard, Lily abruptly seized hold of Vessel’s sword arm, stopping its trajectory and keeping the attack away from her. With a shout, she delivered a powerful palm strike right to the center of Vessel’s chest, while maintaining a strong grip on her arm. The force blew Vessel away even as Lily held the arm hostage, causing the arm to be ripped from its socket with a sharp crack.

Lily had only enough time for a cursory glance at the arm she was holding before it began to disintegrate into particles of magic. While Lily watched on, Vessel righted herself, particles of magic rapidly coagulating around her shoulder to form a replacement for her lost limb. As the arm reformed itself, so did the sword. Watching Lily with an impassive face, Vessel changed her stance, adopting one that was more suited for piercing rather than slashing, while beginning to chant. Magic began to swirl around her body. Alarmed, Lily leapt forward and tried to get in close, but Vessel was quicker: Before Lily could take a single step, the angel charged at her instead, moving faster than before. This time, rather than slashing, Vessel stabbed forward with the sword, forcing Lily to dodge rather than allowing her to control the attack as she had for Vessel’s previous strike. Vessel quickly followed her stab with another stab, then another, rapidly showering down strikes levelled at Lily’s torso, wielding the greatsword as if it were a rapier – no, rather, the greatsword had changed form, taking on the appearance and function of a rapier. Despite her ability to perceive the direction of Vessel’s attacks, they were too fast, too numerous and too varied for her to avoid all of them. Cuts began to appear along Lily’s skin, cuts which did not bleed, but rather seeped magic. An amber stream of mana seeped from the gashes in her skin.

Lily manipulated the streams of mana flowing from her body and forced them to materialise, becoming blades of magic that struck at Vessel, forcing her to relent in her assault as she took up a defensive stance, parrying away the blades. Lily released the wires from her wrists, directing them to join the blades in the barrage of attacks that she inflicted upon Vessel, assaulting the angel from all directions. Vessel parried the attacks with her sword, matching Lily blow for blow while keeping an eye on Lily. When Lily stepped forward to close in, Vessel jumped and braced her body against the sword, bringing it up to deflect a blow that sent her flying. She flared her wings and righted herself, then rapidly ascended beyond the reach of Lily’s wires, increasing the intensity of her chanting.

Lily narrowed her eyes, slits on her back opening up to reveal Iris’ – and now her own – Varia. The small machines filtered out of her back, fourteen in total, each equipped with a gun on its underbelly and a long magical blade on its nose. Lily sent the Varia at Vessel, leaving them the directive of attacking her and breaking her concentration. The small machines darted around Vessel, attacking her from a multitude of directions and in varying numbers. Vessel used her sword to keep the Varia off her, flying around in the air in an attempt to shake them off, but she continued chanting as she did. Lily cursed. If she could not stop Vessel from preparing an attack, she would simply have to meet it with one of her own.

Two compartments on her legs opened up, revealing a pair of long, sleek, black guns that had rested in the hollow space within her body. Pulling them out, she held them toward each other and focused. Guided by her intention, the weapons started to shift and change, fusing together, becoming a larger weapon, growing and expanding, until she held a single, large, menacing firearm. She levelled the weapon at Vessel, the magical overlay in her mind’s eye guiding her aim, subconsciously performing corrections and adjustments for numerous factors. Her eyes started to glow as she begin absorbing the mana from the world around her. Her wings flared out, a red haze of magic appearing between them as Lily processed the magic and ejected the unnecessary components, keeping only those aspects of Manascript that could be used to fuel her attack. The area around her began to drow dimmer and colder as Lily processed and extracted light and heat from her surroundings. The magic she drew was pumped into the firearm, causing it to hum slightly while a glow appeared at the tip of its barrel.

Noticing her actions, Vessel hastened the speed of her chanting and prayer, all the while evading the attacks of the Varia, constantly soaring across the vast expanse of the sky. She had an ominous premonition about Lily’s oncoming attack, and was determined to strike first. If she chanted faster, she could complete the spell sooner, but it would lose some of its potency. However, in this situation, she did not have much choice.

Finally, as she was about to finish her prayer, she righted herself in the air and surrounded herself in a burst of holy power, temporarily pushing the Varia away. She pointed her sword down at Lily.

“O, Lord who is good and all-knowing. I beseech you, cast your judgment upon those who would dare defy your will.”

The sky darkened ominously, with a low rumbling sounding from amidst the clouds. A large magic sigil appeared directly above Lily, a moving circle that was inlaid with intricate patterns and script. Lily growled. This was not ordinary magic. She could not see the ManaScript that should have infused the sigil, and she could not feel any magic within it, even though it was clearly magical. She would likely not be able to deconstruct this spell as she did for other spells. However, there was nothing she could do about it. She was committed to her current course of action, she could not move. Even if she could, the radius of the circle was too wide for her to be able to escape in time. She would simply have to trust in herself to survive through it while continuing to take in mana.

Leave this to me, Lily.

The shield that hugged her arm disappeared and reappeared above her, growing in size, covering her completely. At that same moment, a pillar of light burst from the sigil, engulfing the area around Lily, a burst of pure white light that burned away everything it touched, even the air. Tate took the attack head on, refusing to budge from her spot, protecting Lily with all she had. As the light struck her, burning away at her, waves of pain wracked Tate’s soul, but she did not scream or stop. She was entirely focused on protecting Lily, on keeping Lily safe. Hairline cracks began to appear on the gem that shone in her center, the gem that held her soul. Just as she thought she wouldn’t be able to hold on any longer, the attack ceased. The light abruptly cut off, the sigil disappeared, the clouds returned to their natural appearance. Tate wobbled and fell to the ground, reverting to human form, convulsing on the ground. Blood leaked from her eyes and nose, her skin had taken on a pallid shade, her left arm and right leg were twisted into impossible positions. She weakly twitched, clearly heavily damaged.

The end of Vessel’s attack happened to coincide with the end of Lily’s preperation. Levelling the firearm at Vessel, supporting it with one arm, bracing herself against a leg, she pulled the trigger on the weapon. A magic sigil that was the same size as that of Vessel’s attack appeared, growing outward from the muzzle of the weapon. Then an immense wave of heat and light and magical energy cut through the skies, its power and magnitude matching the attack that Vessel had used. Unable to escape in time, without a powerful shield to protect her, Vessel took the full brunt of the attack. As Lily watched on, the angel limply fell out of the sky, a trail of smoke tracing her path.