War and Peace: Chapter 42.2

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Chapter 42.2

"Behind ya!"

At Casey's warning, James rolled in time to avoid having his head taken off. He landed on one knee with a hand flat against the wall, bracing to kick out in a sweep that forced his attacker back a step.

"Not good," he said. "They got around us." So much sweat poured down that his titanium knuckles were slippery.

The enemy was stronger and better organized than ever. Kanade had her hands full with a magician that seemed to be her opposite counterpart. Black spheres of void energy whizzed through the corridor, constantly intercepted by Kanade's white spheres, each point of contact a miniature shock wave.

Julia had set up shop on the roof, sniping Grendelheimian forces that were attempting to gain entry. Donald and Sara were around the corner, in a desperate melee from the sounds of clashing weaponry. Casey was taking on three swordsmen, each already with debilitating dents in their armor from the strength of her blows.

No time for admiration. The ninja in front of James pulled a katana from a scabbard. The blade glinted under institutional illumination.

Now would be a great time for Jaleet to fall out of the suspended ceiling like a spider with knives, but that probably wasn't going to happen. If James could turn aside the first slash, he might get one good swing in before having his head taken off, but catching a sword midair was about a thousand skill levels beyond him. The larger issue was that if they didn't push quickly through and aid in the defense of the core, the power station would fall, leaving only the governmental offices and water treatment plant standing.

The ninja moved, almost blurring into a doppelganger, but with his mentalism at its height James read the strike. The katana cut air and slammed into the ground. James stepped on the blade, then swung a brutal haymaker, completely sans technique.

The ninja had to choose between losing his sword or his face. "Fucking bastard," he said—with the missing r of a Bostonian accent—dancing backward.

"You're ruining the ninja vibe," James told him.

"Screw you!" The ninja gave him the finger and took a martial stance.

James raised his hands like a street boxer, but his attuned hearing gave just enough warning to duck and roll, avoiding a crackling ball of dark energy that had slipped Kanade's defenses.

"The fuck?" the ninja shouted, diving aside as well. "Watch where you aimin, asshole!"

James heard a feminine growl and turned to see Kanade's dress and hair throwing sparks of white, swirling like she was inside a hurricane.

"This is starting to piss me off," she said.

Both James and his ninja opponent watched as Kanade began striding forward against the press of black projectiles, her glow so strong that everything else in the hallway took on a backlit haziness. The enemy magician fell back, conjuring an obscuring wall of dark energy. Kanade walked right into it. White briefly struggled against black, and then the wall grayed and vanished into wisps. The magician stood unprotected, hands in front of his eyes against Kanade's radiance. She stopped at arm's length and her aura of power receded.

The magician lowered his hands uncertainly, and as he did, Kanade punched him square in the face. He dropped like a side of beef.

There was a moment of silence in the corridor. James and the ninja stared as Kanade stood over her fallen foe, summer dress billowing slightly.

Casey walked up and tossed her hair, drops of sweat arcing up and out; her armored adversaries were piled in a heap behind, twitching and groaning. She stopped next to Kanade, looked down at the body of the magician, and said, "Sweet!"

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