“Now, Cesar!” Esmeralda yells. Yabe-Senpai’s back is open and would stay that way if Esmeralda had anything to do with it. Charged with divine energy, Cesar rushes the open area while Esmeralda does her best to lock Yabe-Senpai down. Her strike placed Yabe-Senpai’s sword across her back. A clean hit. Esmeralda couldn’t believe it. This is what she needed to turn her day around.
Was that a growl? No way! They had actually hurt him.
There was a swoosh, and he was gone. Esmeralda knew precisely what was about to happen. Yabe-Senpai teleported to the other side of the field and started prepping a spell. She knew that even before she felt the swirl of magic build up.
“Behind me!” Esmeralda shouts and builds her Power to send a slash to stop Yabe-Senpai from casting the spell, or at the very least, blocking some of it. Using her Power, she swings her sword in a horizontal slash and pushes her Power to create an energy slash from her blade. The red crescent flies across the battlefield and is pushed back from the wave of ice magic that pours from Yabe-Senpai’s hand. The crescent tries to keep the blast of ice magic at bay but quickly loses the battle.
Esmeralda prepared her sword to redirect some of the magic, but she knew this would be it. Wait. Is that Cesar taking point?
“Get behind me! Quickly!” Esmeralda screams. Esmeralda reaches for him, then feels a cooling calm wave through her. She felt of all things… safe? That can’t be right. Then Esmeralda noticed that there was a slight golden glow around Cesar. Was this true divine energy?
There is a loud crashing as the energy wave shatters under the pressure of Yabe-Senpai’s magic. Esmeralda and crew now faced a large wave of ice magic that is flash freezing everything in sight. Cesar still stood his ground. Placing his shield to his chest and planting his foot down, he took a defender stance. The area around them was encircled with a golden aura, and when the wave of ice magic hit the aura, it split and went around it. No. Way.
Esmeralda took this time to concentrate all of her power. There would be a small window of time after this spell that Yabe-Senpai would be open. She will take it if Cesar’s aura holds. In the sanctity of this aura, the only cool they felt was the divine magic that filled the air around them. The warming sensation of healing magic covered Esmeralda’s bruises, and she could feel Elisa pulling magic to her arrow as she prepares a shot.
The wave of magic ends, and the smile on Yabe-Senpai’s face disappears. In the slight moment that he needs to pull back to his stance, Esmeralda shoots across the battlefield. Esmeralda’s power-infused strike breaks his ice sword, and there is a genuine look of fear on Yabe-Senpai’s face when he nearly misses the business end of her blade. His near-miss is a short-lived victory. The magic shot from Elisa’s bow finds his side, sending him into a spin as he goes to the ground.
Yabe-Senpai’s armor kept the arrow from piercing through, but Esmeralda could tell by the way he held his side, the shot still did some damage. Following through with her attack, Esmeralda leaps in the air and comes down with a downward strike. Yabe-Senpai finds time to teleport out of the way, making her strike miss. Esmeralda quickly looks around to see him floating in the air.
“Kuraokami,” Yabe-Senpai’s voice echoes open fields of the training room. Esmeralda sucks in a hard breath and bites out a soft curse. Magic from all corners of the room pulled into his hand as a white and blue scythe appears in his hands. The manifestation of the weapons burst an aura of unnatural cold, chilling them deep within their bones. Frozen by terror and possibly ice magic, Yabe-Senpai’s eyes changed to a haunting yellow as he looks down on them.
“Yasuhiro! This is training, remember.” Xiao called out, getting up and pulling her headphones out of her ears. Yabe-Senpai’s eyes didn’t change. He hovers over Esmeralda and the crew, emanating power and creating dark tremors.
“Yasuhiro! Unless you fancy your face being shattered into pieces. Drop the scythe,” Xiao’s wife, Kira, yells from across the room. There was now a new power rushing over the area. This one was far more primal and matching her wife in training attire. Her voice shook Yabe-Senpai. Shaking his head and dispelling the scythe, he landed on the ground and looked around.
“What… what happened?” Yabe-Senpai’s voice was a lot less haunting without the scythe in his hand.
“You lost your bloody mind is what happened,” Kira says with more than a hint of annoyance.
“The kid blocked your spell, and you got smacked by a divine enhanced arrow,” Xiao says, showing her devious grin.
“The kid?” Yabe-Senpai says, and his eyes find Cesar. “You blocked my spell? How?”
“I don’t know,” Cesar admits. “I just didn’t want anyone to get hurt, so I ran in front of everyone and held up my shield. I asked Thenosan to grant me strength to protect everyone.”
“And the Goddess listened.” A smile warms Yabe-Senpai’s face. “Holy shit, you may be the real deal after all.”
“How did he do that, Yabe-Senpai?”
“He accessed celestial energy,” Yabe-Senpai says with the kind of pride that Esmeralda feels like she should have.
“How is that different from divine energy?” Cesar asks. Luckily he did because Esmeralda wants to know.
“Divine energy is pulling from the source of energy that the Gods or spirit of a cleric or paladin’s order pulled form. Celestial energy is the power given directly from the God or spirit. It’s been amplified, and it’s almost as powerful as if the God or spirit used it. It can only be as powerful as the host using it, of course, but it’s far more powerful than normal divine energy.” Wow, Cesar did that?
“How did he do this?” Esmeralda asks, patting Cesar on the back.
“The Holy Mother found him worthy of her power. This usually happens when the host is in line with the God or Spirit’s direct beliefs. They are then seen as worthy and become an instrument of their divine wrath, or in Cesar’s case, protection.”
“So I’m a real Paladin?” His hope is infections, and Esmeralda and the crew wait anxiously for an answer.
“Not quite, but he’s on the right path. He is past the first steps of doing it. He just needs to be able to do it when he wants to, instead of in dire situations.” This was still good news, and Esmeralda found herself pulling Cesar to her in an appreciative hug.
“I’m proud of you,” Esmeralda says, feeling his surprisingly strong hands.
“Thanks, Boss. I’m happy you believe in me.”
“Of course, You’re my Paladin.”
There was a smile on Cesar’s face, and for the first time in a while, there was also one on Esmeralda’s face. This was a good step in the right direction that she could do this. Everything before this moment faded away. No longer would she focus on his flaws or his past failures. This was her sign that he wasn’t hopeless, that she had made the right choice. That she would not have to kill him.
Feeling the pressure of the rest of her crew pile in on her, they huddle together in celebration of the progress they had just made. They hurt an S-rank bounty hunter to the point he nearly got serious. There weren’t many who could say they have accomplished this. Cesar is the star, tanking a full power spell from an Elite Arcane knight.
“What’s next, Boss?” Cesar says as they break up the huddle.
“We need to get you a squadmate—someone who will be on the front lines with you. But… we’ll worry about that another night. Tonight, we celebrate us coming together and getting stronger.” The crew cheers at her words, and there is clapping coming from the S-tiers not far away.
“Reyes-san, let me pay for it. You’ve earned it,” Yabe-Senpai says, joining the small circle. Esmeralda smiles and nods at him. This was only getting better for her.
Esmeralda comes too close to breaking the Bushido code, but luckily she did not indulge too much. The sake had been better than the last time she was there, or maybe sake just tasted better when you had something to celebrate. Esmeralda wasn’t sure, but what she did know was, she needs to get in the house and rest from all the parting they had done.
Luckily tomorrow was their day off anyway. Esmeralda struggles with whether or not she would give them an extra day off for all their hard work. Thinking back to Yabe-Senpai’s training, he had never given her a day off, but she had been built for battle. Her crew was made up of a couple of kids who wanted a bit of excitement in their lives. It was their choice to fight, no matter the reason, but she had to be aware of that.
Esmeralda taps her code a little slower than the norm but can still manage the task. After the tiny click of the locking mechanism, she pulls and wiggles her way through the door. Esmeralda didn’t remember the distance to the elevator being so far before. Maybe she had broken her Bushido code.
Letting that be something she would deal with in the morning, she pulls her feet and what feels like hardened cement all the way to the elevator. It’s only a couple of seconds before the ding alerts her that her chariot was on its way to swoop her to the magical place of her apartment. The hiss of the doors doesn’t sound as bad as they usually do. Tonight they sound like the start of a beautiful melody that will send her to the best of dreams. To doors open and spill dim flickering light.
Esmeralda steps in and holds props herself up against the wall with the buttons. Bumping the three button with her elbow, she rests her head against the coolness of the metal. Didn’t that feel amazing? Adjusting herself after the jutting of the elevator’s movement, she gets back in position. The voice that announced the floor was annoying, not sure if she had just realized that or if she was just still trying to pretend that her being drunk had nothing to do with this. Esmeralda tired of trying to pretend she wasn’t…
The doors hissed open, and evil seeped its way into the small corners of the elevator. This evil reeked of high-end cologne, and if Esmeralda was right, it would be wearing a tight-fitting polo, slacks, and boots. Esmeralda’s senses kicking back into high gear, she could now say for sure that if there was a hint of intoxication in her, it was entirely gone now, especially as her eyes landed on the demon at her door.
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