Chapter 65

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The enemy came over the horizon less than two hours after the Queen had broadcast her threat. Most of them came from the air. Legions of translucent Spirits, warped almost beyond any semblance of humanoid form, trailed behind their leader. Isabella hovered several hundred meters above the ground and surrounded herself with a blinding white glow, as if to deify herself.

Zoe, along with a large contingent of Angleyan soldiers, watched the woman approach from the vantage point of a towering bank office. She kept one leg bent behind her, ready to jump through the open window and flee in case the Paladin tried demolishing the building.

"Target's in sight," she whispered into her earpiece.

"Let's see if this works," Victoria's voice replied. "Take the shot."

Zoe crouched down by the window of the now vacated office floor and pointed her sniper rifle at Isabella. The glow forced her to switch the scope to infrared to get a good lock on her center of mass. She had stopped just beyond the invisible dome of Aura the military had constructed to keep Isabella's monsters out of the city. She knew.

The solid runesteel round flew right into Isabella's chest. Yet the woman remained statuesque and unmoving. It was only when Zoe zoomed in through her scope that she realized why: the round had stopped inches away from her actual body. Isabella grabbed the bullet in a tightly clenched fist and extended her arm out toward the building it had come from. Zoe knew what was going to happen next. She dove out the window as far away as her legs would launch her.

An arc of lightning large and hot enough to vaporize glass struck the skyscraper just seconds after Zoe's escape. Even as she launched a grappling hook into a parking garage an entire city block away, she still felt the heat and even a few shards of melted glass rush past her as she hurled herself away from the conflagration.

"I think it's safe to say we need to go to our backup plan!" Zoe yelled into her earpiece. "Tell your soldiers to focus their fire on her lackeys! We'll need to find another way to get-"

A shockwave emanated from Isabella's position, sending Zoe hurtling off course. She very nearly fell a fatal distance to the concrete below but managed to grapple onto another, shorter building and climb onto the roof. She turned around just in time to see Isabella, passing through the Aura without difficulty. Arcs of lightning flew out in all directions from her body, rendering whatever structures they touched a flaming ruin. Zoe took aim once more with her sniper rifle, this time releasing an entire volley of runesteel rounds with the gun's semi-automatic mode. Every single bullet hit, only to clatter away before they could penetrate whatever invisible barrier stood between Isabella and the outside world. Then, each individual projectile hovered back into the air.

"Oh shit," Zoe muttered. She pulled out a pistol and blasted open a nearby window and dove into the building just before the hail of bullets could tear her to pieces. Several bullets and shrapnel shards burst through the walls anyway, peppering the ceiling just inches away from Zoe's head. By some miracle, even the most dangerous ones harmlessly whistled past her ear. The storm was over almost as soon as it started, but Zoe was trembling too hard to budge from her fetal position in the back corner of the now ruined office.

When she did manage to crawl out and peak at the battle, Zoe witnessed what would better be described as a massacre. Although Isabella's legions of Spirits remained locked outside the invisible shield covering the city, the streets were now flooded with hordes of holy warriors with gold armor and flaming swords. The Royalist soldiers and Knights who charged forward to meet them were in a sprawl. Any semblance of tactics or formation had disintegrated in the maze of debris that littered the half destroyed city.

Zoe tried scoping out for the invading army's leader, occasionally shooting down a Paladin with her sniper rifle. No matter where she turned her sight, though, Isabella was nowhere to be found. After going through the entire clip of ammo in her rifle, she holstered it and jumped out the window wielding two incendiary loaded submachine guns. By the time any enemy soldier had bothered looking up, she'd left six flaming corpses behind.

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