198 Transforming Desperation
Zoey found that her vision was slowly returning as her Mittra Regen array did its work. Good thing too, because Cornelius was already getting back up!
His face was twisted in rage, and all of the clothing on his upper body had been blown away by the DAAC's blast, but Zoey saw with a sinking feeling that he seemed completely unharmed from the shot she had hit him with.
Zoey was now in quite the predicament. She could barely move, while her opponent was still fine, and she was almost out of options. She had one more chance, one more ace in her sleeve, but she was afraid of how it would affect herself if she used it now.
She was currently unable to draw any magic power from her inner world, but that did not mean that she was helpless, only that she had to try something else. How that would affect her in the aftermath, she could not predict.
Cornelius in the other hand, was completely beside himself with rage. Every single time he was about to claim his prize, something happened to snatch it from his grasp! It drove him absolutely mad, his power exploding out from him like a storm of magical energy as he howled in rage.
He once again locked his eyes onto his target, the woman, still lying on the ground. If he had to break her arms and legs to make her subservient, then he would!
He launched himself towards her, his speed warping the air itself and sending out a shockwave as he accelerated.
Zoey had waited until the absolute last moment to make her move. Just as Cornelius charged at her, she activated her transformation ability, her last card, the ace in her sleeve.
It was a huge gamble, as Zoey had never tested the ability before and was unsure if it would even help her, but it was the only ability she had that did not require some form of magical energy to use. She could only activate it and pray that it worked.
The instant she activated the transformation, a shockwave ripped out from her, slamming into Cornelius and stopping him in his tracks. Cornelius was at the peak of Rank 7, and one of the strongest magic users on the continent, and even he saw stars from the hit.
Zoey felt her body become hot. Then, glowing lines of molten energy suddenly appeared on her skin, flowing together to form runes and arrays that glowed with fiery radiance. She felt her strength surge, higher and stronger than she had ever felt, a euphoric sensation that made Zoey gasp as she rose to her feet.
Her enjoyment of the moment was cut short by Cornelius's enraged howl as he pushed his power to even greater heights and lunged at her again. Zoey reacted, narrowly avoiding his grab and retaliating with a turning kick to his midsection.
However, her kick did nothing to the furious Cornelius. Despite Zoey transforming and her current strength being much stronger than any other Rank 5 magic user could hope to be, the gap between her and a peak Rank 7 was still too great!
In fact, her kick nearly allowed Cornelius to grab her! She only narrowly avoided his attempt and jumped back, gaining some breathing room as she adjusted to her new state. But Cornelius did not allow her much time, leaping after her and sending a powerful blast of magical energy at her with a swing of his fist.
She avoided the blast, noting in the back of her mind how it crushed and crumpled a meter wide imprint into the metal wall behind her where it struck. She could not allow herself to be hit by that attack! Cornelius pressed forward, roaring angrily as he sent more magical blasts at her, forcing her to constantly doge in every which way as she struggled to avoid them.
To try and retaliate, Zoey released a handful of her flash pellets from her inventory, lighting the area in a blinding flash as they went off. This however, turned out to be a bad idea as Cornelius seemed unaffected and managed to clip her left arm with one of his blasts while Zoey had her own eyes closed to avoid being blinded!
The blast dislocated Zoey's arm, rendering it useless, but in her transformed state she felt no pain and continued to avoid Cornelius's blasts as he furiously pressed the attack.
Lacking the ability to use any magic-based abilities, Zoey could only hope to use items and tools that either didn't need magic, or had some sort of magic storage built in to them. The flash pellets had been one of those items, but she still had more.
Spinning through the air to avoid another magic blast that smashed into the wall behind her, she flung out all her remaining spider mines in the surroundings. They probably couldn't do much to Cornelius, but she had to try something. To her disappointment, the spider mines didn't even activate, the magic aura that Cornelius was giving off simply crushed them to scrap.
Zoey was quickly running out of options. Her Crystal Claw Bracer was useless without magic, the DAAC was out of her reach, lying where she dropped it, her 9mm Custom wouldn't even make a dent, and the FAMR was too big and unwieldy to bring out in a fight like this. She would have used the Mk1 Prototype Armament, but it was currently in a configuration she had been testing, and she needed magic to revert it to its blade form!
She narrowly avoided another blast and leapt to the side, her eyes scanning around to look for options, a way to escape, anything would do right now!
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Her distraction however, allowed Cornelius to gain the upper hand. With an angry howl he sent a barrage of magic blasts at her, forcing her to dodge repeatedly. She managed to avoid them all, but too late she realized she had been backed into a corner!
With a maniacal laugh, Cornelius sent a blast at her, clipping her left leg and sending her tumbling to the floor! Zoey tried to recover, but in a flash Cornelius had approached her and landed a kick to her ribs, sending her flying across the room, smashing into the wall and collapsing into a heap on the floor.
Zoey realized idly that her transformation was at its limit. Her energy was draining fast, and she still could not pull her magic power from her inner world. The damage she had suffered was too severe, and now she could only watch as Cornelius approached, madness in his eyes and a leering grin on his face, knowing that she could no longer resist.
His hands suddenly flashed, and under Zoey a magical array appeared. Zoey recognised it as the same one he had tried to restrain her with when they had met before, only this time she wasn't a hologram. There would not be an easy way out of this one.
As Cornelius approached Zoey, he suddenly stopped. Someone else was here. They both turned to look at the intruder, and were both shocked when they saw who it was.
Zoey recognized the woman as the one who had been following behind Cornelius on the previous occasions she had encountered him. She was a tall brunette dressed in the military style of the Rellen house, standing straight and tall at one of the entrances to the room.
Her beautiful porcelain face was only marred by the streaks of black under her eyes, appearing as though she had been crying. Despite her apparent sadness, her face showed no emotion and her eyes were dead, cold and lifeless like the fields of Gaia that Zoey was so familiar with.
Cornelius also showed surprise at the woman's appearance, although his quickly turned into annoyance.
He motioned for the woman to come to him, knowing that she was his puppet and could not disobey him. Her mind and body had long been completely and utterly broken by him, to the point where only an empty shell remained. She had been useful to him as a puppet and a toy, an outlet for many of his baser urges and twisted desires, but he had a new toy now. It was time to toss her out like the others before her.
She obediently approached and stood before him, awaiting his command. Cornelius grinned in satisfaction as he glanced at the woman watching nearby, trapped in the array while she awaited her fate. He smiled as he felt a soft hand tenderly touch his exposed chest. Perhaps he would have some fun with his old puppet, one last romp for old times sake. It would let his new toy get a glimpse of the many activities he had planned for her.
He furrowed his brow as he looked back at the brunette before him, wondering when he had given her permission to touch him… Pain suddenly shot through him as he looked down to find a dagger buried to its hilt in his stomach, blood already dripping onto the floor.
He had been stabbed!