Thorman used his conjured tower shields to block the whole corridor and Binlow hastily activated a spell from one of his rings to conjure an ice wall one meter (3.3 feet) thick to stop the blast.
Lith could have used the diversion to escape, but charged forward instead. He imbued the Gatekeeper with water magic to conjure a cold aura and himself with earth magic. The combined effects were supposed to protect him from the brunt of the damage.
The fire pillar crushed the shields and melted the ice, yet it still had enough power to turn Binlow's constructs into gas. Nalear gritted her teeth, activating once again the magic shield of her sword while her minions conjured more protections.
Lith struck them from behind with the Gatekeeper, overloading Nalear's sword core and interrupting the Professor's spells. The barrier shattered and the explosion engulfed the four of them, but Lith made sure to stand right behind Nalear.
With the barrier down, she could either protect herself from the blast or from him, but not from both. She would also become his human shield, making it a trade worth Lith's while. Lith released all the spells he had ready, only to see them crushed by Nalear's glove.
Its magic could be used as a sword but also as a shield.
Then, the blast struck them and the four mages were slammed against the walls. As soon as the smoke dissipated, the corridor was peaceful again. Farg was satisfied with the results of her sneak attack. Every enemy was down and accounted for.
There was just one thing that didn't add up.
"Why didn't you run away?" She asked Lith. "Throwing yourself in the middle of my spell was incredibly dumb. You could have di…"
Despite Solus's force field and light fusion, Lith's ears were still ringing. Solus had no such problem allowing him to understand what was happening and cut Farg short.
"Don't let her recover, you idiot! She's the mastermind!" Lith pointed at Nalear's body.
Only then Farg reactivated Life Vision, noticing that Lith and Nalear both were getting stronger by the second, their wounds closing at a speed visible at the naked eye.
'Another Awakened one? This is a nightmare!' Farg unleashed all the spells she had left, but it was too little and too late.
Nalear raised her iron glove, hitting Farg with a series of shockwaves which crushed her attacks and sent Farg sprawling on the floor, bleeding from the nose, ears, and mouth.
"Seems it's just the two of us again, dear Lith." Nalear smiled without stopping to use Invigoration. Lith was still sitting on the floor, clearly the blast had somehow dealt him more damage than she had expected.
Lith took a deep breath. Talking was cheap while spells spoke loudly.
"Arise." He carefully avoided breaking his use of Invigoration, while all the fallen one rose on their feet to serve their master.
As soon as Quylla was freed from the slave ring, her mind collapsed under the weight of her actions. Ever since the previous weekend, her life had turned into a nightmare. The moment she wore the ring, she had been under Nalear's thumb.
She had fought the ring's influence the whole time. Yet her struggle didn't prevent her from feeling Jirni's blood and guts cover her hands nor Yurial's flesh tear up like paper under the enchanted blade.
Quylla stopped struggling. She broke into tears while desperately trying to apologize.
Meanwhile, Friya was already deadly pale. Regenerating Jirni's heart and lungs also required her to share part of her life force to prevent her mother from dying of weakness.
'How the f*ck does Lith to make it always look so simple?' She inwardly cursed. She was doing alone something that the academy trained her to do with two teams of three persons each.
"Feel free to take my life force." Orion had already done all that he could to stabilize Yurial. Friya thankfully nodded, taking only what she needed to keep her and her mother alive.
Phloria only wanted to hug Quylla tightly, to calm her down and tell her that it wasn't her fault. That everything was going to be all right. Alas, there is no time for kindness in war.
Phloria slapped her instead, hoping to snap her out of it before it was too late.
"Quylla, you are my sister and I know how this is hard on you." She held Quylla's face with both hands, forcing her sister to look her in the eyes.
"Now it's not the time for tears. You must decide how you want to remember this moment. If as the day when you saved your friend's life or the one when you killed your first human."
Quylla nodded her head, choking back the tears and the snot running down her face.
She placed her hands on Yurial, activating her diagnostic spell to understand how deep the damage was.
The spell gave her no reply.
She cast it a second and a third time, before finding the strength to put her hand on his heart. There was no pulse, Yurial was gone.
Quylla stood there for a few seconds, incapable of answering to their expectant looks. She felt something die inside of her. She had betrayed her family, her friends.
'How could I be so stupid to wear an enchanted item without even knowing what it did?' She thought in hindsight. None of the group had ever heard about slave items, otherwise Lith would have warned them.
Even his paranoia could do nothing against what he was unaware of.
Quylla joined Friya, giving her life force to both women to help them to recover.
Phloria and Orion understood what had happened, but there was no time for mourning their loss. They stood guard against the chaos surrounding them, blocking anyone that could threaten the ongoing treatment.
For Orion they were just kids, for Phloria were familiar faces she had seen every day for the past two years. Yet they killed them nonetheless. Only death awaited those who ignored their warning and entered the range of their spells.
Jirni regained her sense, coughing out the blood that had invaded her lungs.
'What happened?' Her mind immediately recalled the events leading to her near death experience.
'The wound was deep, yet I feel good. Too good.' Lady Ernas swiftly struck Quylla's stomach, making her faint and preventing her suicide attempt.
"My poor child, what have they done to you?" Jirni hugged her daughter's small body and kissed her head. Quylla was reduced to a pale husk, her skin was deadly cold.
Jirni stood up, letting her family embrace her. There was relief in their faces and warmth in their touch, but no joy in the reunion. Watching Yurial's corpse, Jirni knew there had never been a chance to save them both.
She could tell by looking at the guilt in Phloria's eyes that it was her taking an impossible decision in the heat of the battle.
'I don't know if Phloria or Quylla will be able to live with what happened today. I can't do anything to change the past. The only thing I can do is to make Phloria's choice matter.'
Following her directives, Friya stored Yurial corpse in her dimensional amulet. They wouldn't let anyone harm him anymore. Then, she had Phloria open a Warp Steps to the forest, to send the girls to safety.