Chapter 109: The Unforgiven 2
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Benzhi sent out a stream of qi to the closing portal, grasping the streams leaving it, and holding them in place. A struggle began between him and the portal master on the other side.
“I don’t think so,” he said out loud and twisted his qi threads. He layered two, then three into a weave circling the portal.
“Take that you fucker,” he said to no one again.
The portal remained open and stabilised.
Benzhi: go go, I will keep it open and follow you through.
Reyas: don’t be long, there is a Dread Lord who kicked my ass on the other side.
Benzhi: I will be right behind you, I need to get a good look at your beautiful ass, I forgot what it looks like.
Gisael Activated her much-improved aura-shield and went through, Reyas as well.
Benzhi counted: one, two, three…
Benzhi: who the fuck is the chick with wings and a tail?
Benzhi: what the… was that Fain?
Gisael: Fain has been helping us. The winged chick, don’t you remember Pian?
Benzhi: you better not be messing with me, I don’t remember her.
Reyas: oh no, she will be so upset.
Despite the rawness of Anastasia’s death, between her devotion aura and him being back with the Vanguard Benzhi, he was being uplifted. He drew in a deep breath and dived through the portal. Before he closed it, a little Myrkalfar man dove through as well.
“Second qi sage! I am with you, don’t hurt me!” the portal master exclaimed as Benzhi raised his spear.
“Please do not kill our portal master,” Fain said formally, “he is the one who can get us out of this mess.”
“Please,” Benzhi said disdainfully, “I haven’t even started.” He was sure he could create a much larger mess. “Where is the bitch?”
Reyas pointed down the corridor.
“She didn’t even stop to fight us,” Gisael said.
“She’s headed to the ludus,” Benzhi said. He actually did know his way around this castle. Somewhat.
There was a Myrkalfar woman curled up on the floor, “Who is that?” Benzhi asked.
“You don’t know?” Fain replied.
“I am asking,” he said, looking at her quizzically, “you, sweetie.” He grinned at her like it was an inside joke. Fury had called her sweetie when he stole a kiss from her. At what he thought, was their first meeting.
“I don’t have time to thank you properly right now, but it is good to see you here, aiding the Vanguard. Whatever it is you want, if it is in my power, I will pay you.”
It was Fain’s turn to look quizzical.
She changed the subject, “I think this is their portal master and you have caused her to go into shock when you reversed the portal closure. She probably fought you with everything she had and lost badly. Either that or the Dread Lord knocked her down. But I would suspect the former is more likely. As for payment, we can discuss that later,” she finished vaguely.
Gisael: she wants to join the Vanguard.
Benzhi: oh, a high price indeed. Did she say why? She doesn’t have a crush on me, does she?
Reyas: they are infatuated with you being the second qi sage. We kept telling them to call you Benzhi, but they kept reverting to the silly title. She sees it as her path to follow you. She said she thought that from your first meeting.
Benzhi: really? On our first meeting, I was a jerk and kissed her. So I was right. She does have a crush on me.
Gisael: if you connect her to our link you will know.
Benzhi: what and spoil our fun?
Gisael: she can fight, you should connect with her now. She is full of surprises.
Benzhi: if she impresses you, then I am looking forward to seeing her in action.
The qi communication through the link happens almost instantaneously for the Vanguard, the only thing that slowed it down was the time it took them to think.
“Fain, sweetie,” Benzhi said teasingly. Every time he said sweetie, she shuddered as if poked with a sharp stick. “I would like to bring you into the link.”
“How, why?” she asked.
“Don’t worry, Reyas and Gisael told me what you want. And although I do not like to take advantage of a woman, you are awfully cute, and I can’t help myself,” Benzhi replied. He really could not stop himself from teasing her, she reacted so well to each barb. If anything, she was too easy.
Fain stared at him seriously, “I expect better from the second qi sage,” she said crossly. It was one thing when his memories were wiped, but to continue this immature behaviour was infuriating. She expected a wise head on young shoulders. Young, strong, perfectly formed shoulders…she had to stop herself. If she continued this while linked, it would be highly embarrassing.
“But that is just it, I am not the second qi sage. I am Benzhi. I swear if one of you call me the second qi sage again I will deck you. Now, we are wasting precious time, we have important business with the lady of the house. Yes or no, connect or not?” he asked.
Fain nodded while dreading her future lack of independence. Mourning the privacy of her intimate thoughts. But it was what she wanted. She was meant to be with him. And he was so charismatic, handsome, so forceful..she wanted him. Fain gave herself a mental slap. He would sense those sort of thoughts as soon as they were linked.
Benzhi: too late sweetie, I already did. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it was already plain as the day on your face. Well, if you had day. It’s always fucking night here underground.
Fain tensed up. She felt under pressure to hide her intimate thoughts.
Benzhi: don’t stress so much. Lighten up. After a few weeks of this and you will not be embarrassed anymore. The truth is the truth. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Hell, I was ashamed at first too. We used to climb up a rock face, and I would stare at Reyas’ ass thinking how I’d like to fuck the hell out of it. Man, that was embarrassing.
Reyas laughed at him: I found it complimentary.
Benzhi: you would.
Fain: is it always like this in the link? The speed with which you communicate in a group is amazing. Message bubbles don’t hold a candle to this.
Gisael: wait until you see combat.
Benzhi: speaking of combat. Let’s move.
The Vanguard and their new member ran down the corridor. The portal master announced, “I will just wait here,” he looked at Pian. She shrugged and followed the Vanguard. He was all alone with the unconscious enemy portal master. Benzhi had closed the portal they came through immediately after him.
He stood there alone. Looking around, he could hear the departing footsteps and then it was quiet. Deathly quiet. Then, there was a small bump sound emanating from the opposite direction.
“Second thoughts, I’m coming,” he said to no one. He began to run after Pian.
Benzhi was feeling on a high once he joined with his companions, he had missed them terribly, and he didn’t even know it. It competed with his feeling of rage for mind space, but as soon as he saw the Dread Lord, all the jubilation from the reunion was gone. It was sent back into the recesses of his mind.
The rage was back with a vengeance. And that was exactly what he was hell-bent on.
She was standing on the arena floor, with about thirty Gladiators and five Myrkalfar Knights. She had been busy spending her loot from selling him. He could sense the three women behind him and the new strange Mogui woman would be there as well.
A small Myrkalfar man ran into the back of Pian and placed a hand on her shoulder, breathing heavily, “Made it,” he said. Breaking the sombre mood, he received a glare from Fain.
Now that she was part of the link, she could feel the desire of the other three, it was overwhelming her. They did not hate the Dread Lord per se. They just desired her death above all things, including breathing. Fain had never felt so much. Her heart was pumping with adrenaline, she could feel their emotions, she could sense images now and then.
Benzhi: Fain, go with it. Relax into the link. We are many, but we are one in a fight. This fight will not be difficult, but I want you to stay safe. I could not bear to lose another.
Fain: me? I feel like a visitor, a guest.
Benzhi: we do not make this decision lightly, you are one of us.
Fain swooned in the love and acceptance. She was not prepared for this. Nothing could prepare her for this. She could feel an aura coming from Benzhi, it was the strangest sensation, it did not emanate outwards from him. It came through the link. Loyalty, honour, responsibility. These were natural feelings for her. But love! It was as foreign as swimming in lava.
Gisael: calm down, breathe.
Benzhi: once she is down, they will fall apart. I will take her out quickly, watch my sides, don’t get hit.
“What’s happening?” asked the Portal Master, angling to push past Pian.
Pian pushed him back, “Stay. Or rush in and die. The choice is yours.”
Gisael: looks like she wants to talk.
Benzhi: what is there to talk about?
Reyas: nothing. Kill her, she has no right to walk this or any plane.
The Dread Lord Azrul called out to the Vanguard, “You lost the penta battle, and now you invade my home. Are we to fight?” she looked around at her numbers, thirty-six hardened and trained warriors, including her against their five, “or do you wish to parley?”
Benzhi walked forward three strides and centred himself, looking down at the training yard floor as he walked forward. He lifted his head to look at the assembled foes. His eyes shone blue with power.
He said simply, “Fight.”
It was an intimidating delivery, his raw power flowed over the mass of warriors as the word carried past. A moment ago, they were confident of victory or at least the surrender of the invaders. Now. Now they were afraid.
Moments after the word left his lips and passed through the crowd of warriors, Benzhi charged.
Fain moved the right of the entrance slightly and began to fire frost arrows into the crowd. There was only one slight problem, Benzhi moved faster than her first arrow. But he knew its direction, he could see what she was seeing. Fain sensed an image from him, fire to the flank, keep them at bay. She was in awe of his battle command, she had never read about such an ability, it was astonishing and frightening. She began to fire as ordered, wondering how he knew they were frost arrows.
Benzhi: you have no secrets from me, sweetie.
This thought reached Fain as he leapt in the air, she admired him for a moment and speculated how he had time to send her jokes when in such an intense battle.
Gisael ran to Benzhi’s right, and Reyas took to his left. They would give him vision and protect his flanks. They were under strict orders to keep out of the enemy line, although the expectation was that being surrounded was unavoidable. They would form a triangle with Benzhi, this formation had worked in the past.
Anastasia’s aura was still alight inside him. Benzhi flew through the air, his instincts told him to crush this insect, or was it his rage, he did not know. All he knew was he was going to smash the Dread Lord with every ounce of strength he could muster.
Even if unsuccessful. He would feel a lot better.
As he descended, he felt time slow, the Gladiators, the Knights they all moved so slowly. Benzhi summoned and threw six qi daggers, one for each of the Gladiators behind Azrul. He knew them intimately, their strengths and their weaknesses. Unless they had improved their shielding immensely, in the last month, each of his daggers would strike home.
A look of surprise appeared on Azrul’s face as the daggers flew. Oh yes, she understood what they were. In a way, they were like her barrier discs, except they were far superior. Where she had a shield, he had a weapon.
And his weapon could fly fifty times further from his person than she could control a shield.
His time as a captive was wrong. He would never do that to another person. Take them like they were property, do anything you pleased with them. But he was not mad because of it. The rage he felt was for the beautiful Anastasia. Her beauty went to the core of her being, he struggled to think of anyone as giving or as kind as her.
The Dread Lord could have poisoned her. She did not need to kill her. Was it fear that drove her to kill Anastasia or was she making some stupid power play? He would never understand.
What he had done as a captive, even though he was not himself, he was himself. He eventually worked out who he was after a shakey start. He had learned from Genocis, he had learned more from Ghehena and Rysic. He had learned from his challengers. He had grown immensely in experience, knowledge, and power since their last meeting.
And he had this devotion aura within him. It was begging him to let go of his rage. This was Anastasia’s aura, he was certain. A part of him wished she was sending it to him from somewhere in the aether. But he knew that was not true. It was a memory from his past; haunting him from the grave. It was far more powerful than he remembered, even this slowing of time was a result of its influence.
He was closing in on his prey, his daggers would strike home just before he brought his spear down with a mighty thrust.
She looked up at him with fear in her eyes, she did not know what was going to happen. Her uncertainty led to fear. Her aura was pathetic to him now, once it seemed a monstrous ability, now it was merely adequate.
His spear met her first barrier and shattered it on impact, she had stacked all six in the path of his spear, holding none back to protect against a kick or a smash with his shield.
He laughed. Challenge accepted. He would penetrate every one of her shields. Two, Three, Four all broke, Five, Six. She had created new ones, and they were flying to her aid. She did not create them in the line of his swing. He laughed again.
Seven, eight, nine. His spear was a handsbreadth from her face. She was now in full panic, her tensors were held at bay, and she was worried he would cut one off again. But seeing the inevitability of his spear, she was bringing them forward as fast as she could.
It was nowhere near fast enough. Benzhi could see everything in slow motion, and it was child’s play to lift his shield as he drove his spear home. He intercepted the first tensor with his shield used qi strike on impact and sent it reeling. He moved his shield on to the next, pummelling it from the side. It would not interfere with his spear which was now entering her skull.
He was almost directly above her, his momentum had carried him forward, and it continued to do so. The spear was on its inexorable path to her brain, nothing would stop it. She buffeted it with qi discs, and they bounced off it harmlessly.
Her scream of terror was lost as his spear mangled her face. It had demolished her third eye, and a gaping hole now appeared.
Benzhi’s momentum kept him flying past her, he would land just behind where she was standing, but she was falling now, falling backwards underneath him. He continued to drive his spear down through her skull and into her chest. Her head was bent at such an angle that the spear missed her neck.
His feet hit the ground at the same time as what was left of her head did. He straddled over her corpse, one foot on the left and the other on the right.
Of the thirty gladiators and five knights, eight were dead and another three frozen in place.
The remnants of Anastasia’s aura, its memory, had decided it was time to leave him. It was never meant to be forever, it was born of her memory and his anguish, and with his vengeance, it died.
It did not leave him quietly, a burst of light, an emote of vengeance burst forth from Benzhi, flattening all the warriors arrayed before them. It hit them like an avalanche, smashing them to the ground in a shockwave of pure energy.
Gisael and Reyas were unaffected. The aura knew who was an ally and who was not, it passed over them, skimming them like a flat rock over the still waters of a lake.
With nine dead and twenty-six enemies lying flat on their backs looking up at the ceiling, Benzhi summoned another set of six daggers.
“Who’s next?” he asked jovially.