227 Blessed Steel
"Tyrion steel!!" Decanus Ferrutius leaped out from the hiding spot in his tree.
"--and Human VENGEANCE!!" He drove his pilum into a kobold's eye, slamming it hard into the dirt. He rolled upon his shield, using the momentum to stand. Whirling in a circle, the metal end of his shield knocked two more kobolds off of their footing.
That was his chance!
Justus rushed forward, stabbing into a kobold archer's back, piercing through its heart. Pulling his sword out, he leapt forward with a spinning slash.
"Heyaaaaa~!!" His blade sliced through the front half of another kobold's neck.
"Aha!" The grey-bearded Modestus, following close behind, stabbed his pilum into one of the downed kobold's throats, then slammed his shield into an approaching spear-dog, "Well done, younger brothers!!"
Ferrutius stabbed the throat of the other fallen kobold, then threw his pilum to impale Modestus' spear-dog, "Ah, it's Brother-Immortal. How goes your sales?"
With the trio's combined fury and a few crossbow bolts from Constantina's hidden scouts, the kobold gang was quickly defeated.
Justus paid special notice to the kobold with the poled net-- it didn't have a chance to throw a single one of its pots. A foul stench emanated from a broken one, clutched by its dead paws.
The old man grinned, "Haven't earned a copper. Times are bad for business, I suppose."
Justus stood up and whipped the blood off of his sword, "What are you guys talking about?"
Munifex Modestus chuckled, "Hur hur, we'll tell you when you're older, young Decanus."
The wild-bearded Decanus laughed heartily, clapping Modestus on the shoulder, "I concur with Brother-Immortal."
Justus rolled his eyes.
Oh. The conversation sounded like something that Decanus Zehr would have...
"Shields UP!" Justus dashed between the pair, ducking and covering himself with his medium shield.
Ferrutius and Modestus slammed their own shields down against the dirt, hunkering down. Bolts and arrows banged against the metal.
"What do you think, Justus?" Ferrutius yelled, "Withdraw or move forward?"
Justus grit his teeth, "We wait for Gia to catch up, then we push. We need to get back to the main cohort and these archers might give chase and pick off our injured."
A groan emanated from behind Ferrutius' shield, "Ughhh... Why did I bother asking?"
Modestus laughed, "Because you knew what was right, but didn't want to hear it."
Gianna emerged from the brush, her armor and shield soaked in blood.
Ferrutius whistled, "It's like the Legend of the Shield Hero, herself."
Gia smiled, "I heard the plan. You'll protect me, won't you Justus?"
Justus nodded, "My sword is yours, Gia."
...Ferrutius coughed, "The skill, Decanus. Use the skill."
"O-oh, right," Justus smiled with chagrin. He placed the flat of his blade on Gianna's shoulder, "⌈Never Fall,⌋ Shield Maiden Gianna. We're counting on you."
Gia shut her eyes with a slightly reddening face. A golden glow lit up her armor with divine light, "I could get used to this~♥"
Justus smiled, "Come back safely."
"Yes, Decanus," Gia gave him a coy wink.
Justus felt butterflies churning in his stomach.
He liked Gia. He liked her a lot.
The Shield Maiden pivoted to walk towards where the bolts were firing from. She smashed the pommel of her sword hard against her shield, the clang reverberating throughout the forest, "Hear me, my enemies! I carry the blessings of the Eternal Flame and wield the wills of a thousand Tyrion heroes!! I!!! AM!!!! ⌈UNSTOPPABLE!!⌋"
A silver glow covered her shield on top of the gold of her armor... and she charged forward. Arrows and bolts fell to the ground harmlessly, deflected by her shield or the swirling radiance surrounding her.
Ferrutius leered at Justus, "By the Flame, that's an attractive woman. Are you pursuing her?"
Justus nodded, grinning with confidence, ��Yeah, I am."
Decanus Justus wiped the blood off his blade in the dirt. The kobolds would engage three-to-one, but would quickly fall, especially with the support of Gia and Modestus.
It was becoming rote to kill-- not something that Justus felt particularly proud of. As a child, he'd often ask his father about the battles he'd taken part in. His father's eyes always grew distant, reminiscing... Justus now understood the nature of those eyes, if even only a little bit.
He shoved all his worries away, deep into the recesses of his brain. Like Decanus Zehr said, those could wait until they were safe.
"Any casualties, Uncle-Immortal?" Justus asked.
Modestus chuckled, "None from our side. One of Ferrutius' tent group got slung up in a trap and took a bolt to a sensitive area-- or so I'm told... And Decanus, I'm really not that old. Could you call me Brother, instead?"
Blood had stained the old veteran's pepper-grey beard.
Justus offered a troubled smile, "Sorry-- it still feels a bit strange."
The cracking of wood and a woman's scream resounded through the forest, shattering Justus' illusion of safety.
Gia turned up from sharpening her blade on a whetstone, "That was..."
Justus bolted towards the noise, praying that his instincts were correct. It was damned hard to locate things by sound in the echoing forest.
"Decanus!! Where are you going?!" Gianna yelled out after him.
"It's Rena!!" Justus yelled, not bothering to turn back.
He grabbed a tree vine and swung over a fallen log. He hurtled through the underbrush, not even bothering to check for kobold traps.
He had heard Rena's voice scream.
His body had moved before rationale could dissuade him... but just like his other worries, he caged that tightly in the corner of his mind.
He couldn't lose Rena-- no, he couldn't think like that.
Justus had to save Rena, no matter what situation she was in.
A kobold carrying an axe turned to the stampeding Justus, frozen like a deer spotted by a hooded lantern.
Justus flourished his sword, mana infusing into its metal, "⌈Blessed Blade!!⌋"
The golden sword cut through the kobold's weak armor, burning and sizzling with the heat.
Rena laid next to a fallen tree branch, scooting away in fear from two approaching kobolds, "Please noooo~!!! I have a boyyyyyyfriiiieeeeend!!!"
Justus' legs ached, numb and begging for mercy, but he powered forward, straining his muscles as he leapt again through the air, "⌈Blessed BLAAAADE!!⌋"
One of the two managed to turn back before the golden sword pierced through its heart. It yelped and grasped in futility at Justus' sword hand, but it quickly ceased its struggles and fell limply to the ground.
Rena screamed again.
Was he too late?
Justus shoved the stuck kobold off of his sword and stepped towards his childhood friend.
Tears ran down Rena's cheeks, mixing into a splatter of blood on her face.
She held her polished hunting knife in her trembling hands, covered in the blood of her enemy.
The spear-wielding kobold before her had taken a knee and clutched at its stomach.
"What... what have I done?" She whispered.