The Aftermath Academy - CH54 (Pyrrha)

Damn, we almost had her, didn’t we? Genevieve asks. I don’t respond as I dissipate James, hopefully leaving Olivia’s half severed arm to gush blood. If Hope’s immortality field is no longer protecting her, then there’s a chance she’ll bleed to death. I can tell she’s injured and in pain, which means that she was in a fight with someone truly powerful.

Given Reader is nowhere to be found, I can guess how that fight ended. “How many of my friends have to die because of you?” I shout as I swing my sword down again. Olivia rolls out of the way, then is in an upright position. She’s not using her muscles though. I noticed it before, on a lower level, but compared to the other emotions roiling off of her powers it was faint. Now the physical manifestation of Envy hits me as hard as her Pride ever has, lifting her broken body from the ground.

Combined with the feelings coming from the roiling darkness still coming from behind her I’m nearly crippled by the emotions hitting me. Desire, envy, longing. To stand in the sun without fear, to be with the ones she loves without hurting them, to feel safe. But beneath the burning feelings thrown off by her power there’s more, so much softer, only noticeable because of their intensity.

Hatred, for those who’ve wronged her. Sorrow, for those she’s harmed. Exhaustion and frustration from fighting. And most of all, determination. This feeling isn’t the same as the arrogant certainty thrown off by her power. It’s the subtle conviction that what she’s doing is right, and that no matter what the cost is, no matter how horrible, she will see this through.

“How many of your friends are going to keep trying to kill me?” she asks, tears falling from her eyes. “How many are going to keep getting in the way?”

The darkness behind her dissipates in moments, swirling around her right arm until it takes the form of a sword in her hand. Her left arm is consumed by it until it has formed a black claw, replacing the arm I nearly severed.

“Do you even know why we’re here?” she screams at me, body hurtling towards me faster than I’ve ever seen her move. I lash out with James and she parries with more skill than I thought would have been possible, slamming her black blade down onto my armor. The Barber cracks as the blade sinks into his scales. Now you’ve done it, he chuckles. Not quite as upset as when I killed all her remaining siblings but I’d say we’re still pretty much borscht at this point. “Why do you all keep interfering? This isn’t your job, goddamn you, you’re on the wrong fucking side. We’re risking our lives to try and protect the world, and you keep getting in the way.”

I hesitate in my attack, just for a split second, the earnestness of her cries throwing me off. She believes what she’s saying, every word of it. I’ve managed to scratch her a few times, but her movements are so much faster than they were before. She’s using her left arm to block attacks like it’s a shield. Her skill is that of someone who has practiced swordsmanship for years and I don’t understand how someone with her powers would ever have learned to fight like this. There’s never been any indication she’s used her powers to fight with a blade. But even the slightest hesitation and she’s striking me across my armor again, the scales crunching as the blade comes even closer to my flesh.

“You all cower, waiting until all that’s left is this final fortress, the last Bastion of humanity’s long farewell,” she hisses at me, grappling my arms into a position I can’t hit her from. This entire fight she’s managed to position herself to avoid being caught off guard if I try to dissipate and re-project James. She’s managed to avoid any serious injury from his expansion and is shrugging off the secondary effects being scratched by him should cause. It’s like she knows intimately how I fight. “You delay the inevitable by murdering people you’re afraid of, whether they’ve done anything yet or not, but in the end all that will remain are the rats who’ve fled here and live under a monster no one wants to see the truth about. Fuck that. Life must go on for more than a handful of rich and powerful bastards and I’d rather risk everyone for a chance of that happening, even myself.”

“If you believe so strongly that what you’re doing is right,” I say. “Then tell me what you’re planning to do.” Her words and emotions assault me, make me doubt whether I’m on the right side of this, but for everything that’s hit me I still have no idea what her team is trying to accomplish. The God of the West’s interference I think. I assumed it was to keep me from ruining Olivia’s plans, but if Olivia were right then maybe Alysa is doing it just for her own amusement.

“You really think I’m the sort of idiot who just tells people their plans before I’ve actually won? How clichéd do you think I am? Now please, just get lost dammit!” In an instant her sword is no longer a blade, instead wrapping tightly around my neck, grabbing me in a jaw filled with dagger sized teeth. I’m lifted off the ground at an incredible speed, then am whipped around until I’m plunging towards what’s left of Hope’s tower.