136 Rain in the Nigh
Zoey came to a stop a short distance away from the defensive reptilian warrior, who she know knew was from a race called the Carzivore, thanks to her interface and a mental search. Max was still by her side, holding on to the hem of her poncho, and Viridi was sniffing about curiously.
"I'm a hunter, and that creature you fought was what I was hunting," Zoey said to the warrior.
The Carzivore was still skeptical as he eyed Zoey. "A girl, a boy, and a big cat out hunting horrors like that? With not a weapon in sight?" He shook his head in disbelief.
"I have my ways," Zoey replied with a smile behind her mask.
The warrior sighed in exasperation and finally lowered his axe. "Well, if you were here to kill us you would have let the creature consume us instead of killing it, so... I guess there may be some truth to what you are saying."
He turned around to the dazed man still sitting on the ground and pulled him to his feet before turning back to Zoey.
"I need to get him to the healers, are you three sticking around?" he asked.
Zoey shrugged and nodded. She didn't know what she would find here, but Max's mother had deemed it important enough to send him to her, so she would stick around to see what she could learn.
"My name's Ssaul, I'll be a little busy but I'll come talk to you when I can," said the big Carzivore as he pulled the dazed man back up the canyon, leaving Zoey and the others on their own.
Before Zoey followed him, she approached the smoldering remains of the corrupted that she had put down. She pulled out her blade, the Mk1 Prototype Armament and used it to poke through the remains until she found the corrupted essence stone that had been left behind. Gingerly, she picked it up and rotated it so she could inspect it.
Whatever the original color and essence of the stone was, it was completely unrecognizable now. It was a fist sized stone crisscrossed by intersecting lines of corrupted energy that sizled when she touched them with her hands. Inside the stone was a swirling mass of filth and darkness, and if you looked too long into its depths you would start to see horrifying faces that screamed out for release. It was quite disturbing.
Zoey opened her interface to the inspection window and took a look at the stone.
[ITEM: Rank 4 *#!@#$! Essence Stone
[ELEMENTAL AFFINITY: WARNING: CORRUPTED
[HOST COMPATIBILITY: WARNING: CORRUPTED
[DESCRIPTION: Essence stone corrupted by foul energy of unknown origin. The original statistics of this essence stone have been completely destroyed by the corruption. Attempting to absorb this essence stone will result in the corruption within the stone attempting to take over the host. Purification is possible with large concentrations of pure energy.
Zoey placed it inside of her inventory with the other corrupted essence stone that she had taken from the last corrupted creature. That one had been a Rank 3 corrupted, and the essence stone description had been similar to this one. Both of them had been corrupted to the point that the origin of the essence stones were completely destroyed.
She had no intention of putting the stones to use or trying to purify them at the moment. She wanted to wait until Sethrii returned from whatever was keeping her before she attempted anything of the sort.
She put away her weapon and patted Max's head. He had been watching studiously next to her while she had worked. He couldn't see Zoey's interface, but Zoey figured that he had a general idea about what she had been doing.
Their next step was to head back up the canyon to the Asurai camp and see what they could learn. As the came to where the defence line had been the scout there eyed them suspiciously, but still let them past. Ssaul had likely told him to let them through.
They walked through the area where the warriors were resting first, and the three of them got to see first hand the terrible state that the Asurai were in. Zoey had seen a little through her drones, but that did not compare to seeing it in person.
They saw old wound's and smelled the scent of rotting flesh, missing limbs and other injuries that had not been healed. The gaunt faces, tired eyes, gear in disrepair... all of it reminded Zoey of the faint memories she had of that time...
The last days of Gaia, the last bastion of human resistance fighting against an enemy that had no end until the food ran out and the ammunition stocks were empty. Though she could not remember the names, those faces were forever seared into her mind.
Zoey's emerald eyes grew hard behind her mask. Even if the situation was different, she saw the same helpless determination in the faces of these warriors. They knew that there was no way out, yet they had something to protect. And so they stood in the path of the enemy with defiance. She found it commendable that they still had the strength to stand.
Another thing was the corrupted horror that they had faced only a short while ago. Many of them had been overwhelmed by fear and had collapsed. This had considerably damaged their morale and determination, and left most with mental shadows that would plague their nights.
But some of the veterans had maintained their presence of mind enough to see what had happened. From what Zoey could overhear they were doing everything they could to tell the others how their commander had faced down the monster and fought it in mortal combat, along with Ssaul. Their tale was doing wonders to lift the spirits of the others. If one could not face the darkness on their own, having a powerful leader that could instilled hope and confidence was definitely something that helped.
Zoey also overheard them discussing her and her party. They were marked as the ones who had destroyed the monster with a single swift blow. Wielding a mysterious power and having appeared so suddenly, the Asurai warriors regarded them with caution and trepidation.
Zoey understood their thoughts, but could do little to change them at the moment, so they continued on up the canyon to the white tents that seemed to be the center of activity at the moment.
Zoey quickly realized that this was the medical area from the activity taking place. It seemed like some of the warriors had been affected more severely by the corrupted creature's aura, and the healers were desperately working to keep them breathing.
This was the first time Zoey had witnessed the affects a corrupted creature could have on normal humans. The terror that it instilled on those that were not prepared was strong enough to stop a person's heart and inflict severe mental trauma. Zoey Max, Athena, and Viridi were clearly more equipped to deal with the mental pressure, and had no side effects to speak of after facing these monsters. These warriors on the other hand...
"Viridi, want to give me a hand?" Zoey sent a thought to her companion.
The feline responded by licking her hand and sending back a confirmation through their link. She was eager to help in any way she could, so the two of them went to work.
One difference between how Zoey used magic and how Viridi did, was that Zoey inscribed her rune arrays onto physical objects and then injected magic power into said object to invoke the effect. Viridi on the other hand constructed a mental array and then cast the magic through that, which was the more traditional way here on Darren.
The difference here was that Zoey's arrays could not be easily modified, but were reliable, while Viridi's arrays could be modified on the fly before casting, but could be interrupted. Zoey needed Viridi's help here because she planned on using a modified Mittra Rune array to perform a large scale healing on all the wounded Asurai. Zoey had seen enough undeserved suffering in her time, and she had no desire to see more, especially if she could do something about it.
She put her arms around Viridi's neck and the two of them closed their eyes as they began the process. First, they enhanced their connection to each other so that their minds were so closely linked that they were almost one.
Then using Viridi's ability and Zoey's knowledge on arrays, together they began to construct a massive Mittra Rune array. As they built it, this array grew so robust that it actually began to manifest itself physically outside of Zoey and Viridi's joined mental space.
In the air above them the array started to visibly form, drawing exclamations of shock from those that saw it. Soon all eyes in the camp were on the glowing green geometric lines and runic symbols that traced their shape into the dark night sky.
With Zoey and Viridi as the center, the array continued to form into a magnificent glowing construct that lit up the canyon with its vibrant green light. All who saw it were rendered speechless as the complex symbols continued to form.
Then after five full minutes of casting, it was complete. It hung in the sky humming softly with power, a runic marvel of geometric designs and runes that no one knew the meaning of. Despite the unknown symbols, all who saw it sensed that it was not designed to harm. No, the energy that they all could now sense was the energy of life.
Then finally, Zoey and Viridi working together in magnificent harmony let loose their magic and activated the array.
In a heartbeat, the array suddenly shattered into a million green shards in the sky. Then those million shards each burst into a million more until the sky was filled with uncountable tiny specs of green light.
Then they fell. Like a gentle rain the lights came down and doused every person in the canyon with a surge of life-giving healing energy. Every person had their face was turned to the sky as the miracle took place, not even realizing for a moment that all their ailments and injuries were being healed.
Zoey and Viridi, who had quite possibly overdone it a tiny bit, looked up together, looking at their work with satisfaction before they both passed out where they stood.
Max was the only one who had not watched the lights in the sky. His eyes had never left Zoey this entire time. As she collapsed after overusing her magic, he gently caught both her and Viridi and laid them together on the ground.
He made sure they were comfortable before he turned and stood to guard their sleeping forms while all around them were cries of joy and happiness as the Asurai clan realized what had just taken place.
The Asurai would from that day onwards remember that day as the day that a young woman had healed them all with a single spell of healing rain.
They would remember it as the defining moment when their future forever changed.