A bullet missed Daniel’s head by only a few centimetres and a cold sweat began to break out. The sounds of battle, with metal colliding with metal and flesh, with fire and ice and lightning spreading out, with guns firing in a cacophony of thunder, all spread deafeningly around them. His throat started hurting from constraint use of his force breath as of several minutes ago, but he could do nothing about it and continued to carefully send soldiers into the sand. His head started to feel faint, as he had used most of his own mana and was drawing out Aria’s and Loralei’s. The fatigue that overuse of mana caused hit him far harder than the exertion of moving throughout the fight, but he did his best to remain focused knowing that if he lost control, his targets could be crushed to death, or one of the attacks could hit him.
Not that he had been entirely that lucky in the fight so far; several bullets had stuck against him, only to bounce harmlessly off his armour. He also found that the scales on his arms had hardened substantially through his leveling. While they couldn’t outright stop a bullet or a blade, they could resist and redirect attacks that were off-centre. While he had a few dints, scratches and scrapes, there wasn’t anything that wouldn’t heal after a few moments through his skills. Most of his fortune, in that regard, was thanks to Leah. While he focused on keeping the enemies alive and useful, she caused death and destruction to try and get them to retreat. It was thanks to her rampaging through the enemy’s ranks that the focus was mostly on her and not them.
Through the monotonous battle, Daniel once again had an opportunity to think. Specifically, he thought about the warning Tyr gave him. His actions were basically a direct attack against what Tyr had said. He was supposed to get the three pantheons to work together, but was instead willing to give up that land without any remorse or hesitation. It wasn’t like losing that land would be the end of the Norse pantheon, they still had other territories on the continent, and even more on the other continents. He had heard a trader say that a large part of Europe was Norse territories, so one tiny speck of land was hardly a loss if that were true.
Another part of why he didn’t feel much remorse about going against Tyr, had to do with how little faith he had. Faith was more than just believing in a god. The gods had long since revealed themselves, so believing that they existed was like believing that the air through your moving hands was real. It could be felt, even if it couldn’t be seen so simply thinking it was real wasn’t what faith meant. True faith, faith in the Age of the Returned Gods, was something different. To have faith in a pantheon or a god meant giving that god control over a portion of your soul, giving them the ability to kill at any moment.
The amount of trust it took to give a notoriously fickly being the ability to kill at any moment was rewarded with a power called ‘divine techniques’. Divine techniques varied depending on the particular god followed, but usually involved boosting a particular ability, lowering an opponent’s abilities or a unique type of attack. While divine techniques were powered by the gods, and as such didn’t have any cost to the user, the overuse of them, or simply using them at a time that was inconvenient to the god involved, often annoyed the god enough to kill the user. It was simply an inherent risk involved with the power. For those in direct contact with their gods, that risk was somewhat reduced, though only a fool would think that they were completely safe.
An example of divine techniques was the divine strengthening technique that Louise had used to fight the metal skeleton. The divine energy causes the user to glow, and in the case of Morrigan followers, the have their strength increased. While the effect wasn’t particularly interesting or complicated, it was enough to tip the balance in an otherwise equal fight.
It actually seemed strange to Daniel when he heard that people once lived without knowing about the gods, that before the divine beasts woke the gods whether the gods were real was one of life’s big questions. That kind of uncertainty was simply too alien; he couldn’t even begin to imagine what a world without gods would be like. It was to the point that the best he could think of was a world where the gods didn’t bother people.
Pushing that distraction from his mind, he became resolute. The opposite of faith, atheism, was an active resistance to intervention by the gods. By taking the portion of the soul that would normally be given to a god, and instead condensing it into a wall, atheists could prevent gods from communicating with them, or even from being able to see them. While most people, Daniel included, fell into a middle category or neither faith nor atheism, atheism was an active move against being manipulated by the gods. Daniel knew that the fights ahead of him, against the Hindu and Shinto, would be akin to fighting gods, not just their followers. To give himself the best chance, he made a final move and condensed his soul.
From the city, a large fire suddenly broke out on Enoksen. The spreading fire caused the battle to hesitate for a moment, though as the fire was doused a moment later, the fight resumed. The fire seemed to have be caused by some kind of powerful attacking spell, though only those with the best site could have seen a figure escaping from the massive tree. Whatever it had been, it served only as a moment’s distraction from the fight.
As expected, the leaders were the hardest to pin down. While Leah held back the Olympic army, and the bulk of the army was busy with Enoksen, Daniel, Loralei and Aria did their best to take them out. The commanders were each equipped with armour that negated the breath attack, meaning they had to be brought down in a more conventional way. There were three leaders, each large humans with plenty of battle experience. They each had solid spears, draped in runes and made from pre-fall, alchemic materials.
Alchemy was a branch of materialisation magic that specialised in impossible chemistry. A meteorological example would be creating synthetic elements, that would normally only exist for a few seconds or less, and preventing them from disappearing while they are made stable within an alloy. While the applications differed with different areas of chemistry, the general method was basically just creating things next to things they wouldn’t normally be able to. The results were the discovery of lighter and stronger alloys, more effective medicines and more powerful explosives.
Daniel could tell just by looking at them that the spears could pass through his armour like he wasn’t even wearing any. His old gear would have broken even from a near miss. With that in mind they had to fight them with a focus on defence. Aria created thick magical barriers that held off their attacks, allowing Daniel and Loralei to shoot from safety, but cracks could be seen on the barrier’s surface. The large humans were far more nimble than their frames would suggest and remained one step ahead of their attacker’s bullets. Whenever one of them reloaded, they would make attacks against the shield, using their numbers to confuse whoever was still shooting. The damage to the shield was piling up and it didn’t look like it would last much longer when Daniel noticed something fortuitous.
Some of the nearby Olympic soldiers was a Draconian. Moreover, they were red Draconian. Taking the opportunity, Daniel channeled a sizable chunk of mana to his voice and called out. “I, Daniel Selby, command you. By virtue of my ruby scales; attack these people.”
The leaders hadn’t expected it, but their soldiers turned against them. With pained expressions from loss of control, the opened fire on their leaders. With the increased number of targets to avoid, they could no longer avoid of them and were quickly shot dead by Daniel, Loralei and their allied soldiers. The compulsion was due to the ability Daniel gained when he became a higher variant, “Draconic Command (Ruby)”. As much as they wanted to resist, the level difference between them and Daniel was simply too great, and as a result killed their own leader. Those around them, didn’t understand what happened, and simply assumed that they had become traitors. Before Daniel could knock them out, other members of the Olympic army had killed them.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, the second Enoksen army was facing a far worse situation. Their ranks had broken not long ago and and they were being completely outclassed. Not only was the average Olympian soldier more powerful, but they were also more organised and more plentiful. The confusion and mistrust at the gate had carried over, and the communication lines had broken down. While the elites of Enoksen were far stronger than the Olympic elites, they could only draw the battle out, not win it. Eventually, even the strongest of people would tire when surrounded.
Both Kat Anaon’s shield and spear had broken and her pistol was long since out of bullets. While she had started using weapons she found on the battlefield, they too started to beak. While she commanded the Morrigan Order on that side of the wall, she was the only member of that order still standing. Simply to survive, she had used the divine strengthening technique two times already, and felt that if she were to use it again she would be risking her life. Towards the end of the fall, there were many similar fight, and she remembered how she cultivated her fighting experience in each such battle.
Kat knew that she would have to use one of her least favourite techniques, but she was starting to become desperate, as the Glass Tower System started to display a red low health warning. The Aura of Death; the soul energy of all those she had killed condensed into air around her body, distorting her in the eye’s of those around her. Anyone that saw her, who hadn’t reached at least level six, would freeze up, seeing her as a monstrous abomination that was synonymous with death. Their fearful gazes hurt her to see, knowing that to them, she was the most disgusting thing to ever walk the planet. The second calamity, the Grey Wraith, was the creature that taught her how to use that ability, and she knew from experience how powerless it felt to be around that.
She watched as that cloud of grey mist spread out and dissolved everything. People, buildings, cars and weapons, nothing could stop that creature from dissolving everything she cared about. It simply moved, and everything in its path was reduced to dust. With the Queen Leech, there was at least a theoretical way to kill it, but the Grey Wraith only grew more powerful with every attempt to kill it. It simply existed to bring about the end. When she was left alive by it, she felt like it was solely so she would live on with its horrendous image burned into her mind.
Knowing full well how it felt, she shaped her aura like that beast. While those around her were stunned, she started to cut them down like wheat, dying with a face filled with the purest kind of fear. However, her aura wasn’t something that affected her enemies alone, and the strongest Olympian soldiers took the opportunity to kill off the Enoksen soldiers that froze up.
After only few minutes, both armies were destroyed and only Kat and five enemies remained standing there in the red soaked sand. While others had been unaffected by her aura, when those that were died off the soldiers targeted them. Having killed so many, Kat was completely exhausted. She was barely able to remain on her feet, but her enemies started to get closer. Sweat dripped into her amber eyes, but even through her blurry vision, she could see that her attackers were also tired.
With the five approaching her, she knew she had to move, but simply didn’t have the energy to do so. As a spear came lazily towards her, it took most of her effort to simply duck out of its way. Not that it help much, as another followed after it and took her in her side. Falling her her knees, it felt almost like a vacation, like she wouldn’t even regret it if she didn’t wake up. There was no part of her that wasn’t tired, and death embrace seemed to welcome her. However, as she closed her eyes she realised; she didn’t want to die. She wanted to live more. She remembered the sweet smile of her favorite students, the joy she had in training the Half-Elf sister, and knew she didn’t want to die.
Moreover, it was scary. She couldn’t even begin to express just how much she feared death. What would await her, a monster that could inspire fear like the Grey Wraith. How could the afterlife be a good place if it welcomed creatures like her. That fear filled her with more will to live than any desire could.
But will couldn’t change anything. The spear had struck deep and she was laying face first in the blood soaked sand.