The Oracle Paths - Chapter 815 Together To The Death
Chapter 815 Together To The Death
Two days later, a handful of Myrtharian Nerds gathered around a table on top of Laudarkvik. The mood in the room was gloomy and everyone looked immensely bitter and depressed.
"Is this all that's left of our faction?" Jake sighed as he broke the armrest of his seat in frustration.
Everyone present looked down in shame. Seeing their expressions, their leader didn't have the courage to rebuke them. After all, he too had only survived thanks to the mercy of the enemy.
In this room in addition to Jake sat Hade, Lucia, Gerulf, Asfrid, Rogen, Haynt, Kenway, Enya, Daniel Wilderth, Kevin Wilderth, Tim, Drastan, Maeve, Svara, Hephais, Jen, Aisling, Xaverie and Melion. That is a total of 20 people.
Behind their respective leaders, there remained 6 Myrmidians, 3 Kintharians, 2 Throsgenians, 38 Eltarians, 3 Beskyrians, Qewie and Temra the powerful Dragonid recruited by Lucia.
Outside the building, Mufasa, Shere Khan, Crunch, Lord Phenix, Thomas'O Malley and Bagheera stood on their haunches, their fangs clenched in rage and sadness. Next to them stood a huge mammoth, an equally terrifying woolly rhinoceros, two birds of prey with a wingspan exceeding that of an airliner and a cobra for which the word long was an understatement.
These were the only survivors of the joint blistering assault launched by Lost Divinities, Demiurges, Anti-Life, Replicators and Mirror Vanguard. The Myrtharian Nerds had been all but wiped out.
It was depressing, but Jake preferred to look at it another way. These people had passed the test imposed by those all-powerful factions. Somehow they had proven that they deserved to play with the big boys.
It could be because they had awakened their True Will at the right time or perhaps they had shown other equally impressive abilities. Either way, they knew how to stay alive and that was all that mattered.
Jake had decided. These people would be the only ones allowed to participate in the Fifth Ordeal with him. For the others it would be decided on a case-by-case basis.
This was their last game for show. From the next Ordeal on, if a bloodbath like the one that had just transpired happened to them again, it would be a permanent death. And despite his apparent coldness, he didn't want to see all his companions die miserably in a sordid gamble.
"First of all, congratulations. Kudos for still being alive." Jake forced himself to smile, but the mere fact that he really meant his words took a huge burden off the survivors' shoulders.
Tears welled up in the eyes of several Myrtharian Nerds like Crunch, Lucia, Svara and Drastan, but others were livid with guilt and anger like Gerulf, Daniel, Enya and Mufasa. The rest had icy expressions and it was impossible to know clearly what they were thinking. Nothing good anyway.
"Thank you for bringing Tim back alive." Jake smiled warmly at Lucia as he saw that she had succeeded in the rescue mission he had given her despite the adversity. She had even managed to bring back three Beskyrians.
However, no glee nor pride lit up her face as she received her friend's recognition.
"I may have saved Tim, but my entire army was decimated. Almost all my fellow soldiers are dead... I lost to that Deimos in a fair duel and he spared me which is even more humiliating."
"But you're alive." Jake objected as he took her in his arms. "That's the only victory that matters."
Lucia struggled a little, then accepted his embrace with closed eyes.
"It's still humiliating, though..." She grunted in a nasal and cute voice as if she wanted to be pampered.
The other members present struggled to reconcile the image of the current Lucia with the fierce warrior who led them with an iron fist on the battlefield, but Gerulf smiled happily at the scene. Only he knew this side of the fierce princess.
"I hate them all! I want them to die!" Enya gnashed her teeth, unintentional red flames shooting out of her hair and eyes.
Jake let go of Lucia, then turned to his other friend.
Two streams of tears ran down from her eyes, but the heat of the flames evaporated them at once. He hugged her tightly too, ignoring the fiery heat, and whispered,
"I'm sure Esya is happy that you survived in her stead. Don't let her down by sacrificing yourself foolishly. Learn from today's lesson and make sure it never happens again."
"I know..." The Egaean woman muttered as she balled her fists, "But it's just too damn painful. Jake, tell me you have a plan to avenge us?"
Jake, Hade, Asfrid, and Lucia remained silent, their grim faces more graphic than any answer.
"J-Jake? Y-you have a plan, right?" Enya stammered anxiously, her beautiful pink eyes welling up with tears again.
"There's no plan." Jake closed his eyes. "Not this time. They won."
The young woman lost her last hope and after that walled herself up in silence. She had known all along that it was impossible to avenge her sister. The outburst just now was just her mind in denial trying to escape reality at all costs.
Until now, even when the situation was critical Jake had always found a solution to their problems, but seeing that this time he was also helpless she realized that he was just like any other human. He wasn't infallible.
"Can I have a cheering hug too?" Daniel joked, but there was no way Jake could laugh at that.
He could see the aching sorrow in his uncle's battle-weary eyes. That guilt was the same guilt that was burning in Tim's eyes. Lily, his daughter, had perished again.
"I'm sorry about Lily, Uncle Daniel. But in the end it's for the best." Jake said honestly. "You won't be able to protect your daughter all the time and I think it's now clear to everyone that she's not cut out for these Ordeals."
The Wilderth warrior took the time to ponder his nephew's words and realized that he was right. In the end, she was still alive and it was better to draw the necessary conclusions from this failure than to brood over it. Still, it was a failure for him as a father...
Jake then turned to Tim and after tousling his hair he looked him straight in the eye and said,
"This time you may think that you were unlucky and a useless burden, but the mere fact that you are still alive and kicking with us proves that your luck is definitely among the best in our faction.
At that moment, Jake froze realizing something crucial. The Nullifyer had not nullified his luck. Was that why he had managed to hit him several times even after the latter had robbed him of his intelligence and senses? He didn't know how much that unpredictable stat had contributed, but he was sure it had made a difference.
In the end, Jake also had to give Crunch a hug to console him for losing his sweetheart, Duchess. The cat was inconsolable, feeling terrible for not having been there when she was attacked by Anti-Life.
Paradoxically, Jake was rather impressed that his cat and Lord Phenix had survived. They had been attacked by Mirror Vanguard and those guys were real badasses.
According to Xi, Mirror Vanguard was an elite faction fighting on all fronts pitting the Mirror Universe against its enemies. This included not only the Digestors, but also neighboring Mirror Universes touching their borders. There were rumors that they were in fact the Oracle's armed wing, like the Oracle Guardians and the Overseers, but this was never confirmed.
[I think I was in Mirror Vanguard back then.] Xi had confessed to him the day before in an uncertain tone. The memories were hazy, but she became more and more convinced as she thought about it.
"Cough... Your attention, please." Hade cleared his throat. "Jake's words may sound harsh, but it's the plain truth. We lost and we can't get even. The problem, ultimately, is not our strength, but our Oracle Ranks. With enough of them and the right plan, even ants can take down an elephant. The problem here is that the elephant is immediately informed as soon as a single ant seriously considers killing it.
"Even if we manage to come up with a brilliant, foolproof plan, and believe me, we're not short of ideas, we'll be attacked again like we were two days ago before we can even put our plan into action. There is no alternative. The lesson of this defeat is not that we are not strong enough, but that the tactical value of a high Oracle Rank is supreme."
A stunned silence settled over the room and after gauging their downcast faces, Jake bowed to them and apologized,
"I'm sorry. If my Oracle Rank had been higher, none of this would have happened. If you are angry with me, you are obviously free to appoint a new leader among yourselves."
Seeing that he was sincere, a horrified expression appeared on the faces of all the Myrtharian Nerds present. Gerulf slowly got up from his too-small seat and gave him a manly hug, crushing his ribs before putting him back down.
"Whether you like it or not, you will remain our leader until the end. The giant growled in a gruff voice. "We'll fight together to the death."
Jake widened his eyes, looking around, and saw a big smile on the faces of all his companions. He saw the dried tears of Lucia and Enya, the placating look on Asfrid's face, the wink of Aisling, his cat sticking his tongue out, and the reigned-in, yet kindly attitude of Mufasa and Shere Khan.
"Together to the death." They clamored in unison.
At that moment, Jake realized that he was no longer alone. From now on he could count on his friends to meet the challenges ahead.
"Together to the death." He echoed with determination, two flames of True Will blazing in the depths of his pupils.
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