Tanamar soared high above the city on wings of light, looking down upon the death and destruction wrought by Letalis Serpentia and her allies. There had been less than two bells of fighting, but Caeruleum's fate was sealed.
On the ground, over half of the city had been consumed by flame. Some of the rampaging fire slimes were big enough to see, even so many thousands of feet away.
In the sky, flying amongst the plumes of smoke were harpies, gryphons, and even a group of Letalis-armored adventurers with raven-like heads. They dropped arrows, sharpened bits of metal-- literal junk onto any pockets of resistance... and from a distance too high to retaliate against.
This was all thanks to Tycon.
The guy didn't even want to siege Caeruleum... but he pulled out all the stops when essentially, Athena refused to run away to a different territory.
Tanamar spotted a glint of white-- that was where he needed to be. It was at the foot of one of the tallest buildings... a building that was miraculously still standing.
Forming a lance made of thick, crackling radiant energy, he tilted his body down to speed his descent.
He knew his helmet and armor were growing hot as he dove, but whatever it was made of protected him well. The spear punctured a hole through an armored Legionnaire's chest, and when he hit the ground, the ten-foot shockwave took the dozen or so Munifices off of their feet.
Tanamar stood tall, wisps of radiant energy steaming off of his dark armor. He was surrounded by people from a guild called Sons of Qotal... impossibly strong fire caster and martial Classes, every one.
But though they all wielded some type of fire magic... and the city they protected had been reduced to burning rubble, the ground was coated with a light sheen of ice.
Athena was somewhere nearby. He had to find her.
The Branded charged forward. They came with shields. They came with enchanted weaponry.
Tanamar willed another holy lance to materialize in his hands... and the Branded gave pause.
It was like they thought he could only make one.
Leaping forward, he stabbed at a man's head over his shield, his brain exploding out of the back of his skull. With the haft of his spear, he smacked away another warrior's shield, then stabbed that woman in the heart.
Tanamar staggered forward, feeling someone strike him in the back.
It hurt-- it would probably bruise, too, but his armor was damned good. Glancing behind him, there was a Legionnaire, looking dumber than a mushroom that his fire-enchanted sword didn't do shite.
Back-stepping towards the guy, Tanamar jabbed the base of his spear against their foot.
Their leg broke at the ankle. When they collapsed, Tanamar spun his lance around and stabbed the downed man through the eye socket.
They were just trash. He didn't even need to use Skills.
A year ago, he'd have to... Half-a-year, maybe.
Tycon had asked him if he'd reached Gold-Rank. That was impossible for a normal person, and he'd told him as such.
...Tanamar felt a little guilty for lying.
The Branded began to shout, finally forming a half-decent shield wall-- something that wouldn't prevent, but would slow the slaughter.
Grinning, Tanamar squeezed and bent his mana-lance. He forced its shape into a curve... then, with his finger, he created a taut line between its ends.
He had a gift on his wrist... a talisman from his bastard of an adoptive father, Harkus. It regulated the mana usage on his creation skills, which allowed him to reshape his lance as he pleased. With it, he no longer needed to carry a physical bow.
It was useful.
He still wouldn't forgive the man, but he didn't hate him so much anymore.
Maybe being with Athena dulled his old hatreds. Maybe he was growing more mature, influenced by a certain green-haired Tactician.
Maybe he was growing soft?
Tanamar fired a spear-sized arrow upward... one glowing blue and composed of frost mana, "⌈Scatter.⌋"
The crystalline arrow burst... raining death upon the Sons and Daughters of Qotal all around him. Heavy icicles battered their raised shields, denting the metal.
He fired another shot skyward, this one made of light capable of better-piercing through his enemies' weakened guards, "⌈Scatter.⌋"
"Stand together, men!! Our shields will stay strong!!" One of them shouted.
Tanamar chuckled to himself, nocking another arrow.
He could do this all sun.
Using his ⌈Aspect of the Celestial Hound,⌋ Tanamar was able to locate Athena after only a few minutes.
She was sitting on the steps to the Head Magistrate's residence, quietly regenerating her mana.
Athena was the most beautiful woman he'd ever known, her custom-made silvery-white armor accentuating her subtle, but perfect curves. She still had her frosty-blue hair cut short, but it was longer than before, falling slightly past her shoulders.
She told him that she wanted to grow her hair out... that it made her more feminine? He said it looked fine-- that he fell in love with her because she was who she was, not how she looked.
He got yelled at.
...He was probably going to get yelled at again.
Tanamar twisted his mouth into a frown, "You should really wear your helmet, Athena."
Athena popped one eye open, smiling coyly, "It's so stuffy, though~"
"Don't worry," She stuck her tongue out. "I had it on while taking care of these guys."
Tanamar looked around. Armored Legionnaires littered the area, frozen into bluish-white, vaguely-humanoid statues. Many of them were cracked, body parts broken off-- blood seeping pink and pooling onto the icy ground.
There were probably over a hundred of them, too. It was no wonder that she felt confident in going ahead of him.
His girlfriend was still Iron-Rank, according to Tycon.
Whatever System that guy had was broken-- in a bad way. He'd never met an Iron-Rank who could do what she did.
Athena stood up to stretch, holding her helmet but still reluctant to put it on, "All done! Let's go, Tanamar!"
"We can still rest," Tanamar grimaced. "No one's going anywhere."
"I'm fine," Athena insisted. "The sooner we can get the Head Magistrate to surrender, the sooner we can stop fighting!"
Tanamar took in a deep breath, the cold air stinging his nose. He was suspicious as to why Athena was in such a hurry... and her words confirmed them. In her selfishness, she thought that she could save people by defeating the city's leader.
That's not how the world works.
He attended the strategy meeting with Tycon, Sorina, and Zenon. Besides being a bed of snake cultists, Caeruleum was a collection of a thousand different parties, not an entity loyal to a single individual.
Forcing the Head Magistrate to submit wouldn't stop the siege. The siege wouldn't stop until the city was purged in its entirety.
Besides that, Tanamar was worried about Athena pushing herself too hard.
The Sons of Qotal were a powerful force defending Caeruleum. Their elites were called The Branded... and they were intermixed with the regular militia and adventurers and dumber-than-mushroom gladiators.
He'd dealt with them easily enough. Athena did too. However... they'd been fighting for a couple of bells. The Branded weren't getting stronger-- but he and Athena weren't exactly well-rested.
Tanamar had taken a few hits. Athena's once-pristine armor was scuffed in a few spots.
All it took was one mistake, one shite judgment... and either of them would be dead. Resurrection magic didn't exist in this world, not to his knowledge. And the last thing he wanted was to beg Tycon for another favor.
According to Calculator Sorina's reports, the leader of the Sons of Qotal made The Branded look like glue-eating children. He was some lame bastard called The Exarch.
Stupid Flame-taken name.
Probably strong enough to rate.
That wasn't even what Tanamar was worried about.
Tycon had him use his ability... to see the future. He didn't see shite, not really. He got a Flamescarred headache and a bloody nose for his troubles, too.
He saw flames. That was a given-- Tycon had the Iredar catapult fire slimes over the city walls. Those things split into more slimes sometimes, too. There were less places *not* on-fire than were.
In those flames... Tanamar saw something.
And whatever it was... it looked back at him.
It wasn't shaped like a person... or any beast he knew. If he had to venture a guess, it looked like a Flame-taken dragon.
But dragons didn't exist in this world.
Tycon nearly had an aneurysm when he mentioned it.
That guy really didn't like the thought of it, for whatever reason.
Whatever it was... Tanamar didn't want to encounter it, not without the other members of Sol Invictus. Seven hells, even if he had a company of Guild Letalis-- maybe the assault rifle squad, he'd be more confident.
Tanamar took a deep breath. The problem, then, was convincing Athena.
"Athena... we should wait for reinforcements."
The woman shook her head... "We have to keep going, Tanamar."
She reached her hand out... sparkling tears brimming out of her eyes, "Will you protect me?"
Shite. He could never say no to this woman. She was going to be the death of them both.
Tanamar held her small hand, nodding, "Of course, I will... in this world and the next."