Leaving the House of Magni, and watching it fall, was different than what she had experienced with Kagekawa. However, it was no less life-changing.
It was made weird by the lift-off because it was near-magical to be inside a giant balloon that slowly but surely lifted off to the sound of a powerful and constant boiler that was as present as it was far away. Airships were an odd thing to experience in the first place, but Ayane really did feel like she was inside a flying building.
Alas, the Shadow couldn’t enjoy the moment because when she had gotten back to the large hangar, some of the crates that had littered the outside had been loaded into the airship, including the one where she had stored the red-haired woman.
The one that wanted to burn everything.
So, as whatever counted for an engine in that mega-machine turned on and got it moving, Ayane was running around trying to find her, worried that she had managed to escape. The Hunter had the beast pilot under control, but the woman? Amanda was missing.
Oh man, Ayane thought over and over again, severely worried.
Ayane didn’t want the others to know. She had already caused so much trouble over their new prisoner, and over wanting to convince the Warlock not to stay behind, that the last thing she wanted was to trigger another unending violent discourse from the Mad Genius.
Ayane could just picture him going crazy on her over not killing a defenseless woman who wanted very much to kill him. Which Ayane could relate to, but not to the point she’d actually do it.
The Shadow did find her, however. The woman was still unconscious and still inside the crate, hidden away with a bunch of others in some storage space. Someone had put a lid on it apparently without looking inside, which made sense considering all the rush.
The Shadow pulled her out of the box and over her shoulder. Ayane would carry her to the Hunter and where she was keeping the other prisoner. There was no reason to involve anyone else for the time being.
To get there, she had to traverse most of the airship, which meant cross the exterior walkway that took her up a few levels, which only impacted on her further just how big the building was.
Ayane walked past mages as they all experienced what she had gone through with the fall of Kagekawa.
The airship had come out through the exit hole on the side of the mountain, and floating away, or flying or gliding, it depended on one’s perspective, really. The point was, the mages were witnessing the downfall of their own dynasty.
Ayane looked over the rails, as they were doing, the difference being she was walking and busy while they were standing, fully focused on battling emotional trauma. They had all lost friends. And family. And now their home was being ruptured by a multitude of burrowing machines and an overflow of Beasts.
The massive mansion, with all magical environment now dispelled, presented itself clearly in the crisp clear air of the mountain’s top. It included massive towers, five of them, and four huge main buildings, plus the entire palace. It was built to house hundreds, much like Kagekawa’s own structures had been.
The Beasts huddled all over the structures, including the exit hole, to stare down at the fleeing airship. More remarkably, many of the real beasts, the smaller humanoids, had also joined them. Hundreds of pitch black eyes watched them, unable to follow, but in a way, silent and dreadful, vowing they would.
Every tower and hall fell off the sides of the mountain in a despairing and pathetic avalanche. They crumbled like a rock-slide on their way down, lifting up so much snow and debris and causing further avalanches down the mountain.
Somehow, the destruction did not seem noisy enough. Not even close. The sound of the ruin and obliteration was far too distant and disconnected to accurately match what was clearly visible.
It really was just like it had been with Kagekawa.
“I can’t believe it…” a mage commented, as the Shadow passed by a small group of them. “Mate, look at that.”
“I’m looking,” the friend said, sadly.
Contempt, sadness, hate, it was all around her. And yet, they were lucky, they still had each other. They weren’t forced to handle it all by themselves. They weren’t entirely responsible for what they were seeing, while the Shadow had been, her theft had provoked the Beasts.
Ayane was considering that when a different sound filled the sky. Engines. Getting close.
The Shadow turned away from the mountain, which was being left behind, and looked ahead…to find two airplanes.
Her eyes opened wide.
Oh no, Ayane thought.
The big balloon suddenly swerved to the side, right about the same moment that the planes opened fire. She almost fell off the railings. One of the mages actually did.
His scream chased him down into the void, not ceasing, but gradually dissipating.
Amanda did go over the rails as well. However, Ayane managed to grab hold of the restraints tying her hands together. With her belly pressed against the railing, which was much too tipped over for comfort, she watched the planes drive right by, shooting.
An explosion sounded out, and right after that, yells took over the surroundings, trying to get people to react to whatever damage had been inflicted on the ship.
A few spells were cast but weren’t even close to hitting the planes.
I cannot believe they are doing this, Ayane thought.
The Shadow looked down at Amanda, leader of the Fire Hazards and very much in league with the pilots trying to end humanity’s last hope of survival, and really questioned, more than ever, why she was still grabbing tight.
Let her go, the Shadow thought to herself.
Ayane loosened the grip but immediately hesitated. She tried but she didn’t have the strength to pull her up.
“Someone help?” The Shadow asked her surroundings.
With her belly starting to hurt, and air starting to thin, Ayane looked around for someone who could help. Nobody was even close to paying her any attention.
Meanwhile, the planes were circling to strike at the balloon, but due to their trajectory and aim to hit its sides, they were heading straight at her.
I am going to die, Ayane thought in realization, I am going to die for this horrible woman.
Ayane sniffed. She gulped, looking down, aware that she was running out of air, and more importantly, strength. Her body was aching and getting weaker.
Ayane sniffed again, a tear squeezing out as she steeled her heart, convincing herself to let the woman go using nothing but pure emotion.
And then the horizon was covered in red.
“What?” Ayane asked, confused.
A force pushed Amanda up and against the Shadow, sending them tumbling back together against the wall.
Confused, Ayane opened her eyes to realize that the red belonged to a cape.
“Warlock,” the Shadow said, in wonder.
Standing on the railing with perfect balance, with his clothes fluttering before a wind that she could not feel, the cape most of all, was the House of Magni’s Warlock. He had his arms crossed, indignant.
“Brainless gits,” he growled, “you fancy fighting with the Beasts?”
The Warlock uncrossed his arms and whipped his right arm forward, whispering a word.
A whole new force stormed out of him and the Shadow observed as one of the planes completely and abruptly capsized, its torso breaking apart as if something really heavy had dropped on its nose. It spiraled down and away from view. The other plane opened fire and kept it going for roughly five seconds before it, too, collapsed into itself and spiraled out of view.
Following that, the Warlock stepped out of the rails and looked around in annoyance.
“What kind of genius doesn’t mount some bloody weapons on his airship?!” the Warlock complained. “Idiot.”
Ayane blinked, still stumped by how easy it had been for him. In all honesty, it was really anti-climatic. She was shaken out of it when the Warlock talked to her.
“It’s bloody annoying to have to prove you right, lass. And so soon, too. But here we are,” he grunted. “Nobody was stopping those stupid machines, were they? That means you saved all of us.”
The Shadow shuddered and thanked everything and everyone she was wearing a mask because there was no stopping the tears from running down her face. She glanced down at Amanda and could, of course, find a lot of encouragement in her efforts, and a lot of relief in the fact she had not let the woman go.
One moment later and who knows?
Nobody would ever know, not really, and she was happy for it. She had grabbed on. Ayane had persevered.
“You saved the House of Magni,” the Warlock stated.
The Shadow looked up at the Warlock, who was shining due to the position of the Sun’s light. The sight was meaningful to her. Since he was the oldest member, and by far the most powerful, it was as if he was really speaking for everyone.
She knew then that The Shadow had not let the House of Magni fall.