Interlude 8 – The Wandering Minotaur

His hands grasped tightly around the hoofed foot pinning him down, desperately trying to keep it from crushing his chest in, Julius could do little else but glare furiously at the enormous, four-armed and blood-red devil staring him down, a horrible grin full of sharp yellow fangs splitting the bottom half of her face. Black horns crowned her head and shaggy, dirty-blonde hair draped down her back, over the pitch black armor covering most of her body, but Julius couldn’t just focus on her appearance. Too many other things were taking up his attention.

All around him lay the unconscious bodies of his sister and their allies. All of them had been taken out easily by that absolute bastard Lovalde, who ambushed them on the road to Xelsha with her summoned monster.

“Really, Kigalori must be getting sloppy if she couldn’t take care of you four along with that pathetic wretch you called a master.” Julius felt his temple throb as he turned his enraged gaze at the demon general mocking Blake’s murder at the jaws of that evil creature. Lovalde was a mostly-human woman with a much more slender figure than her ridiculously huge devil, her pale skin standing out against the sleeveless purple robes she wore. Her face was bared under her hood, showing the red tattoos covering it like lines of blood from her eyes and mouth, and gold-lined vambraces covered her forearms, her fingernails long and black.

“For the best in my opinion though, since now I get to work directly on your intact bodies! Gyeheheheheheheh~!” As the crazed alchemist gloated over her victory, Julius tried to reach for his sword. However, before he could reach it, the devil lifted her leg, and brought a black hoof straight down on his wrist with a sickening snap sounding out as it broke. 

“AGH!” 

“Oh my, that must have hurt so badly, you poor dear-Ha, no, can’t keep that up. Tenvoc, feel free to kill them, but try to keep them in one piece. Easier to experiment like that.” Walking over to Douglas’s unconscious, Lovalde casually kicked him straight in the side and picked up Ignia after he hit the mountainside. “And I certainly can’t wait to work on this as well~!” 

“Fuck you!” shouted Julius, his eyes burning with rage, frustration and pain. In that moment, he hated her more than anyone else in the world, but one thought rose above all of that hatred. He needed to get her away from his family.

“Tenvoc.” And with an ever-widening grin, the devil raised her two right fists up, ready to finish it. 

And Julius heard a voice. “Oh? To think I’d find someone so close to death be such a perfect candidate to accept my power. Oh well. For now, I’ll give you a taste of what to expect~.” 

Feeling the twin fists slam down on his face, Julius blinked back tears as he saw the devil reel back, surprise visible in her eyes. His nose was broken and he felt a nasty throbbing in his forehead, but his head wasn’t smashed.

“Hm? Tenvoc, did you hold ba-?” BWHAAAAAWM!

“GAH!” Lovalde suddenly doubled over, clapping her hands over her ears at the sheer blast of sound right in her ears. 

Julius blinked back again, the last person he expected up standing right behind her and holding his trumpet to his lips, his tanned fingers shaking as he tried to keep up the sheer noise. It wasn’t anywhere near the kind of music Cyrus could normally play, stuff that could make them feel better even after a tough fight, healing wounds and making them feel stronger. Instead, it’s like their redheaded bard was just screaming a sound of absolute pain through his only remaining instrument.

And then Lovalde whirled and blasted him straight in the chest. There was a horrible wheeze as Cyrus stumbled backward, blood staining his clothes and Julius howled far louder than the trumpet played.

“What-?!” Lovalde barely managed to yelp as Julius strained against Tenvoc’s hoof, actually lifting the stunned demon up inch by inch- “T-Tenvoc! What are you doing?! Kill him now!”

The devil glanced at her master, then grunted like a beast and, instead of punching, just tried to stamp down on Julius, shoving her full weight down to crush him. He howled again and didn’t budge in the slightest, still shoving her upward as he felt his eyes and muscles burning with something he didn’t understand-

And that’s a massive silver hammer abruptly came crashing down on the blood devil’s head, her teeth all audibly cracking as the top of her skull smashed into her jaw, her dark eyes bulging almost comically. Oh, and one fang landed right next to his head. Hm. 

Also, she felt a whole lot lighter for–Julius blinked as the devil burst in a shower of blood, drenching him completely. 

For a second, he almost thought another devil had taken Tenvoc’s place, but when he wiped his eyes, he properly saw an absolutely huge minotaur lady standing above him, a red cloak draped over her muscular shoulders–she had plain leather armor on under it, chestplate and pants, all in brown–as she faced away from him, probably glaring at Lovalde. 

Julius sat up, then actually looked at Lovalde and had to bite back a laugh. The alchemist’s jaw had completely dropped open and she was staring in total bug-eyed shock at the new arrival. “…”

“Was that your demon?” Julius’s savior asked angrily, her free hand clenched into a fist. “Were you havin’ it torture this guy!?” Huh. She had an accent.

“…” Lovalde slowly frowned, crossing her arms over her chest as she tilted her head at them. “…Nope.” She snapped a finger and suddenly she was on a red horse with a fiery mane. Then she flipped them off. “I’ll be back, brats. Count on it.”

Julius stared silently as Lovalde had her horse jump straight off the cliffside of the path, riding down the sheer slope with bizarre ease. At this point…his brain was trying to catch up with the rest of him. Because wow, what?

“You okay?” 

His brain still wasn’t caught up with the rest of him, so Julius just stared at the veritable war goddess who saved him. A part of him began to believe he was just imagining her as the silence stretched on. 

“…You get hit in the head or somethin’?” 

“Uh, n-no, I’m good.” Placing his hand on the ground to lift himself up, Julius winced as pain shot through his arm. 

“Lemme help.” Reaching down, she easily lifted him up with his unbroken wrist, helping him stand by leaning him against her.

Huh…he didn’t notice at first, but she was really tall…And very solid.

“Th-Thanks.” 

“No problem, just get me somethin’ to eat if you wanna pay me back.” 

“Whenever you two are done flirting, I can use some help…” croaked out Cyrus from the ground. Iginia was on the ground by him, dropped when Lovalde ran off.

“Fuck you, Cyrus,” Julius muttered, glaring at the bard even has he felt a surge of relief rush through him. There’d been so much blood, but he didn’t seem too hurt… 

“If you want to make this a menage a trois, I certainly don’t mind~,” chuckled Cyrus, before he coughed and clutched his side, “Ow, bad, very bad, don’t laugh! Laughing bad! Ahh, stay in place ribs, I need youuuuu…”

“…So what’d Orange Boy there say? Meh’na what?” Tisma asked, earning a hard bark of laughter and then a groan of pain from Cyrus.

Julius sighed. “Some outworlder language. He thinks it makes him sound suave or some shit.” 

“Right. So he’s Cyrus, and you’re…?” 

“Julius. And I was saved by…?”

“Tisma, savior extraordinaire. Also just a general wanderer, currently at least. Now, let’s see if everyone else here is okay.”

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