40: Vaucouleurs

After a few seconds, my heart stops pounding and I calm down. Even though the danger of this situation hasn't decreased, my body has grown used to the ridiculous speed we're moving at, even as the French countryside flies past in a green and blue blur. Mash has calmed down a bit as well, from what I can see of her - though her face is still pale. Well, she's less used to this kind of thing than I am, so that's to be expected.

"Honestly, it's a bit annoying how much I've gotten used to this…" I mutter. Getting carried around like this... it was embarrassing when Rem did it, it was embarrassing when Ram did it, it was embarrassing when Garfiel did it… but it doesn't feel like I'm being emasculated anymore, which is arguably worse. "Getting carried around like a sack of potatoes isn't something I wanna get used to, dammit!"

"Yeah, yeah. I'll give you a proper princess carry next time." Mordred snarks. "We're getting close, though, so get ready."

Looking ahead, I can see our destination, rapidly growing from a spot on the horizon to a full blown wooden wall, behind which the stone steeple of a church can be seen peeking out - that'll be the commune, I guess.

I nod. "Got i-aaaaHHH!" My affirmative response is cut off by a scream as she suddenly leaps a good ten feet into the air, catapulting us over the hastily erected wooden wall, and into the Vaucouluers fort.

There's a brief pause as the soldiers around us stare at the armored knight who just landed in their midst - broken when one of them finally starts yelling.

"Ah-Ahhh! They're here! Enemy attack! Enemy attack!" The crack of muskets discharging and the scent of gunpowder fills the air as a dozen or so bullets bounce harmlessly off Mordred's armor, even as she deposits Mash and I onto the ground unceremoniously.

"Huh!? Do I look like a damned winged lizard to you idiots? More importantly, the hell were you guys thinking, building a fort with no roof against flying enemies? Hurry up and-" She cuts herself off as a shadow flits across the ring of light replacing the sun - and then another, and another. The french soldiers scream and backpedal as bolts of red energy erupt from the knight's body, and - "[Azoth Blood Arthur]!"

A crimson beam extends from her blade, and dragging it through the air, she scrapes four wyverns out of the sky - but more and more begin to circle overhead, and slowly the swarm of leathery wings begins to blot out the sun.

"Just hurry up and get everyone into the church! As long as I'm here, they won't make it through the door!" She calls out.

"...There's no more room." Says a scruffy looking blond man - who, now that I look at him, isn't actually wearing armor, but rather outfitted with an iron pot on his head and an old pitchfork in his hand. "Do you think we didn't try that? Fighting behind wooden walls like this is obviously stupid, but we ran out of room in the church. We've crammed as many women and children into it, but…"

Looking around, I can still see a number of noncombatants sitting despondently against the church's walls - the elderly, beggars, and a few men and women in traveling clothes. All the people who were most 'expendable'. And even among the 'soldiers' a good half dozen are obviously just villagers outfitted with farming implements, the youngest among them no older than thirteen.

"...Shit." I mutter, standing up. They're going to die. They're all going to die. Everyone outside of the church is going to be butchered, I'm almost sure of it. They might as well be defenseless, apart from the dozen or so muskets that I see among the few real soldiers, and two cannons posted at the edge of the fort, hastily being aimed skyward. Everyone else here might as well be unarmed, if the wyverns are as fast as I remember - melee weapons just won't cut it.

"...I could try to position Lord Chaldeas above us…?" Mash suggests.

"...That's no good. It would only hold them off for a bit longer, and run you out of mana." I bite out. What do I do? What the hell do I do? My jaw clenches, my teeth grind, and my gut churns.

Yeah, now's the time. Now that I'm backed into a corner, just maybe, it'll work. Desperately, I focus on that squirming black something in my soul, and pull.

"-[Lunar Eclipse]."

…As expected, nothing happened. Goddammit. Well, it was worth a shot.

I'll survive this. I know I'll survive this, with Mash protecting me - but all these people are going to die, and there's no possible way for me to save them.

Thunder rips through the air as the cannons fire, two iron balls arcing into the sky towards the swarm of dragons - but one with red scales dives out of the pack, and easily batters the shots away with a couple slaps from its talons. A strange hissing laughter echoes down on us.

Then, like a meteor shower, the whole pack plunges towards us as one.

A few more swipes from the Azoth Longsword dispatch about ten more before they can reach us, and one more cannon shot manages to bring down a small looking green-scaled beast - but then they're upon us, and Hell truly arrives at the Vaucouleurs fort.


Mash tackles me to the ground, shielding the both of us - and I can't see anything else through the storm of leathery wings and claws.

Well, that's a lie. I can still catch the occasional glimpse of the hell around us, of death and violence. To the left, the scruffy blond man's scalp slides off his skull as razor winds lacerate his head. To the right, the teenage boy I had seen is carried off into the sky, dangling by his leg, only for the Wyvern's claws to snip it off at the knee and let the rest of him plummet to the ground far below. Behind us, a glimpse of an old woman staring at the intestines spilling into her hands.

Mash's eyes flit from sight to sight, hell searing itself into her retinas. Her breath hitches, and slowly, I see panic start to well up in her.

And then a red wyvern slams into Mash's shield, its wings fillingour vision and obscuring all else as it tries to tear the weapon from her hands.

But still, I can hear every scream, above the gnashing teeth and swirling winds.

"I don't want to die!" "Mother! Mother!" "God, why? Please, God, forgive us!"

Until, a voice cuts through the cacophony.

"Stand and fight!"

The wyvern attacking Mash goes limp as a metal pole smashes into its head and breaks every bone therein. A second later, an armored boot kicks the thing off of her.

"Stand and fight, men of France! We defeated the English, will mere lizards get the better of you? They are but animals; kill a third of them and the rest will flee!" She calls out, even as she spears another Wyvern on her polearm. Long, braided blonde hair flutters behind her, and even as blood sprays into the air from the dying wyvern, not a drop of it dares to land upon her.

"Spearmen, aim for the eyes! Guns, archers, target their wings! Artillery, use grapeshot, you buffoons! And fear not, for God has not yet abandoned the people of France! [Luminosité… Eternelle]!"

She plants the end of her pole in the ground, and golden light spills from the banner at its end as it unfurls, a ring of golden light slowly growing outwards around her, as the injuries of everyone in its vicinity seal shut, and the wyvern's claws fail to pierce their skin any longer.

Slowly, inexorably, the tide of battle begins to shift. A spear through the eyes dispatches one. Another one is battered down by Mash's shield, now that this woman's Noble Phantasm is here to protect me in her stead. Clusters of fist-sized cannonballs tear a few of them out of the sky. Blasts of crimson light from Mordred, still going strong, cut down another five or so. I almost get into it enough to carelessly fire off a Minya or two, but I manage to restrain myself - I may need those spellcasts if things suddenly flip on us again.

Through it all, murmurs grow.

"Jeanne!" It's Jeanne!" "Jeanne has returned, like they said!" "But she's still on our side!" "Of course, this is our Jeanne we're talking about! How could that girl possibly turn evil?"

Until finally, finally, the Wyverns start to turn tail and flee.

"See, the beasts are routing! But don't let up! Shoot them down to the best of your ability! Each one that escapes is a threat to your countrymen! Kill as many as you can!" Jeanne d'Arc yells.

And so, there's a last salvo of musket fire, with bow and cannon fire continuing for a time after that - even as the fort's defenders cheer and hug one another, glad to be alive.

I can relate to that.

A/N: Me, two weeks ago:

"Next chapter is probably no earlier than next Friday."

Did I say next Friday? Cuz I apparently meant the Friday after that. Sorry guys. I'd like to say I've been busy, but that'd be a lie. I was just... slothful, is all.

Anyway, Luminosite eternelle heals wounds in this chapter when it's not clear whether its supposed to do that lorewise... it does have a turn-based heal in-game, though, so I'm just gonna have it do that. To be clear a whole buncha people did still die, both those outside of the flag's range and those who were already too wounded.

Speaking of range, what exactly is '10' range? Is that ten meters? Ten kilometers? Ten Sabers lined up on the ground?

See you next week hopefully.