[[Disclaimer:]] I don't even know what to say here anymore. These chapters speak for themselves, really.
[[ The Last Day—Spire]]
"Time to get figuring!" Bertram squealed, backing into the rest of the group, Lillian finding her way onto the ground (and immediately surrounded by a protective wall of spirits).
"Right right, I'm...I'm figuring!" Vayu wheezed, charging at one of Ingrim's claws, trying to slash at the sharp black talons with her blades.
Ingrim snarled and lifted his limb out of the way, manuveuring himself around Vayu's swipes, trying to climb around the outside of the Hut's tower like a spider as Vayu chased the giant monstrosity from the interior perimeter.
"Take any opening Vayu makes for our escape!" Chizu instructed, giving Bertram and Lillian a shove. "Lillian takes priority, we'll get out whenever we can!"
Bertram took Lillian by the hand and began leading her to the cleared landing, but was foiled again as Freakies began spilling up over the side of the perimeter of the tower, teeth gnashing, skittering like insects up the outer wall and into the roost.
Ingrim gave a rattling, echoing laugh outside, peering in at the chaos as the spirits began to scatter, Vayu wheeling around to rush in and begin cutting out the Freaky overflow. Chizu unsheathed her Bleeder and joined the fray as well, and Bai Hu made an attempt herself. When the woman could not find a sword hilt to grasp anywhere on her person, though, she groaned, hiked up her torn robes, and simply bashed a Freaky charging at her with her foot, kicking it out of the way.
Lillian buried her hands into her hair and clawed at her scalp, wrecked with worry and fright, then began to barrel and weave her way through the monsters, trying to get to the landings herself.
"Lillian, get back here!" Bai Hu hollered, noticing Lillian on the move before the others.
Huhni and Monni, as well as Dwight, tried to get to her, but Freakies blocked their path, and Dwight pushed the couple back to protect them.
Lillian stumbled out into relative clear and pivoted on her good foot, waving her arms and bouncing where she stood.
"Here! Here! Follow me you ugly bastards!" Lillian cried at the Freakies, trying to get their attention with a great deal of success.
The Freakies began to chase after Lillian alone, leaving the rest of the spirits be as they pursued their target. Vayu and Chizu finished off what they could and began to hurry to Lillian's aid as Lillian began jogging the perimeter of the tower, cringing and huffing.
"GET EVERYONE OUT!" Vayu screamed, bolstering Bertram and his Beacons into action as the blue girl waved around her blades. "FLY THEM OUT WHILE THEY'RE DISTRACTED! GET EVERYONE OUT OF HERE!"
There was a chorus of protests and even some physical resistance to the Beacons by the other spirits, who did not want to leave the battle just yet, but eventually everyone save Lillian, Vayu and Chizu were lifted up into the air and flown out of the tower as quickly as possible. Ingrim tried to intercept the evacuation, but Chizu foiled him, stabbing him directly through his massive clawed hand. As Ingrim shrieked from the pain Chizu pulled her sword from the inky palm and tried to scale up Ingrim's long arm. Ingrim shook and roared, trying to throw the tiny woman from him, and proceeded to climb up and out of the way, thundering steps moving up to the rooftop.
Vayu, meanwhile, had batted away at the Freakies chasing Lillian and had scooped her up, knocking whatever leftovers remained off the side of the tower from the open landings.
"Chizu's up on the roof with Ingrim!" Lillian panted, trying to catch her breath as Vayu set the girl onto her feet.
"Don't worry, she'll be fine...for Now, we need the distraction for a few Moments," Vayu hissed, crimson eyes scanning the empty tower room. "Bertram took off with the other Beacons trying to get everyone out. When he comes back, he'll take you out of here."
Lillian nodded and remained doubled-over. She didn't know why she was suddenly so exhausted. Clearly the entire day's worth of events was catching up to her. Vayu patted Lillian on the back and smiled sadly.
"Why did you do that?" Vayu asked with a hopeless grin.
"Run around flapping your arms like that!"
"I was trying to help!"
"I know, and it worked! But damnit Lillian, you have to stop throwing yourself into danger like that! Sort of deters everyone else's work!"
Lillian nodded slowly, gazing out into the abyss visible through the other open stretch across the room. Bertram was soaring back up to the girls, waving and grinning triumphantly at the cleared tower, when a small figure was flung down from the sky and into the orange man.
Vayu gasped and hurried over to the other side to see what had happened, but stopped half-way as Bertram floated back up into view, holding Chizu in his arms. He and Vayu opened their mouths to bark at each other, but neither was given the chance. Lillian felt large, sharp fingers wrap around her middle and hoist her effortlessly into the air, pulling her up and around the rafters of the tower room, which she filled with her screams.
Ingrim hauled Lillian up and onto the rooftop, where Lillian kicked and scratched at the tiled top, trying to grab a hold of something to prevent her being dragged closer to Ingrim. Her fussing around earned her a narrow get-away and she slipped out of Ingrim's grip and rolled away, just as he tried to follow-up and snatch her back up. It wasn't much of an escape though—the Hut's roof met at a point and was angled on a decline all around. Lillian tumbled down to the edge and nearly fell over, but managed to catch herself on all fours right at the drop-off.
"WHY ARE YOU SO DIFFICULT TO KILL?!" Ingrim roared, clutching the pole at the centre of the roof for balance, lashing out another arm at Lillian, who dived up onto the roof's incline to avoid the crash, only to simply be raked up by Ingrim.
Ingrim let out a cry that pierced the swirling skies above and Lillian was let go instantly, Ingrim retreating back to the centre of the rooftop. He gawked at his arm, the claw having been cut clean off, leaving an oozing stump. Vayu stood between Ingrim and Lillian, towering over the severed digits, which melted into a puddle of Death Blood and began trickling down the shingles past Vayu's feet.
Ingrim bore his awful, sharp teeth at Vayu as he winced, a new claw forming out of the Death Blood. The regeneration caused the monster's scowl to turn to a massive smile.
"I could ask you the same!" Vayu hollered, stomping her foot down, splashing the puddle of Death Blood.
"THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE—I'M ALREADY DEAD YOU IDIOT!" Ingrim laughed.
"You know what I meant!"
Lillian felt the shingles begin to moan and creak underneath her and Vayu as the Death Blood spilled over the top of the spire. Lillian's eyes followed the awful black liquid over the edge and saw, to her horror, that wells of the stuff were forming at the base of the Hut in the Pit's sand, more Freakies climbing out from the dark tunnels the pools created.
The roof shook suddenly under Vayu and Lillian, the shingles whining with strain.
"...Vayu, move!" Lillian shouted, scrambling on all fours.
She scurried out of the inky substance just as the Death Blood began to chew through the rooftop. The disintegrating shingles heaved under Vayu, but the blue girl managed to leap aside as a hole was eaten out from under where she stood. No sooner had Vayu landed and gotten her footing, though, did Ingrim seize the opportunity, swiping at her with his claw. The hit connected and flung Vayu off the rooftop, knocking her from the Hut's uppermost spire and sending her spiralling down, down, down, into the sea of Freakies and Death Blood below.
Lillian gasped and leaned over the rooftop, watching Vayu fall as the new Guardian screamed, her blue form descending quickly, fading out of view from the long fall and into the mess of black and gnashing, white teeth below.
Lillian blinked and choked, a hand clasped over her mouth as she stared over the Hut's edge. Tears welled up in her eyes but never fell, too mortified to actually cry—she could only gasp and heave loudly, hyperventilating before the waterworks began. She wasn't given any time to fully process what had happened, though—Lillian felt a powerful pull on her prosthetic leg and she was immediately dragged back and yanked up into the air, dangling upside-down in front of Ingrim's leering, Freaky face.
"TWO FOR TWO, SHALL WE MAKE IT THREE?!" the monster laughed, grinning wide and opening its mouth, long white teeth dripping with Death Blood, nearing Lillian's face. "IF I WASN'T SO FRUSTRATED WITH HOW HARD THIS ALL HAD TO BE I WOULDN'T GUT YOU, I'D JUST THROW YOU DOWN THERE TOO—GO OUT LIKE YOUR FRIENDS DID!"
Ingrim let go of the centre-spire and raised his other claw, poised to strike Lillian as she dangled helplessly in the air squirming.
"NOT THAT I NEED TO—I HAVE INSURANCE," Ingrim added, with just a hint of a more sane, familiar tone—the one Lillian was used to, the real, proper Mr. Ingrim's voice. "BUT WITH THE WAY THING'S HAVE BEEN GOING THERE'S A VERY STRONG PART OF ME THAT THINKS THAT IF I DON'T KILL YOU NOW, I'LL REGRET IT LATER, AND AN EVEN STRONGER PART OF ME THAT VERY MUCH WANTS TO TEAR YOU LIMB FROM LIMB!"
"Then get it over with!" Lillian hollered, simply letting her arms hang above her, swaying, scowling through her tears at the monster.
Ingrim blinked his massive eyes and hesitated, simply staring at Lillian.
"I said get it over with!" Lillian barked. "You have me right where you want me, just do it!"
Ingrim continued to hesitate. Lillian had no clue why...confused, maybe? It probably was a little startling...seven days of fighting for her life, and then suddenly she was simply asking to be killed after all the former fuss. She didn't want to die though, she knew that, but in the heat of such a moment, having watched two close friends be hurtled into a sea of Freakies and Death Blood, knowing they'd be pulled down to the Other Place to suffer until they could escape, and knowing that many others had been harmed all because of her...well, she couldn't blame herself for suddenly wishing the worst for her...
But he was stalling, twitching almost, nearly debating with himself over the reality of what he was about to do...and if he was even going to do it.
He blinked and shook his head suddenly, ready to strike again, so Lillian simply blurted the first thing she could think of, and prolonged her egging, since it seemed to have the complete opposite effect on Ingrim.
"What? You're just now thinking about quitting?" Lillian snorted.
"I'M NOT QUITTING," Ingrim retorted. "I'M JUST...I'M JUUUuuust a little shocked is all..."
He clamped his mouth shut, long, sharp teeth grinding against each other as he closed his eyes and pushed his claws into the inky mass of his face.
"You're regretting it all, I bet," Lillian continued. "I bet you had no problem doing all those things you did in the City and all those things you did to my friends because you figured that they're already dead and it was no big deal, but when you're actually about to do the ONE THING you were actually supposed to do you, realize the consequences!"
Lillian squirmed in Ingrim's hold.
"If you kill me, I'm not going to be okay, and you know that!" Lillian hollered. "I'm gonna get dragged down there and I may never come out after they're through with me and you know it! You know it's wrong because you were put in the Other Place to begin with for killing people and you know you're going to get screwed over for this!"
"I KNOW THAT I KNOW ALL THAT!" Ingrim roared, pulling Lillian close to his face, so she could stare straight into his huge, monstrous eyes. "BUT IT'S TOO LATE TO GO BACK NOW, DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?!"
There was desperation in his booming voice, and as he tilted Lillian closer to him she could see and hear the familiar, comforting hint of the Mr. Ingrim she once thought she knew.
"I told you it was too late," Ingrim croaked. "And I'm afraid."
"Afraid of what?" Lillian asked.
"Of what will happen to me, and to Abby and my friends if I don't finish this," Ingrim hissed. "Maybe there isn't a glimmer of hope for me if I finish this, maybe I was blindsided...but if I see it through, then at least it will only be me who rightly pays for it. If I don't, I can't even predict what might happen."
He flicked his eyes down over the ledge of the roof, glancing from the depths below and back to Lillian, grinding his teeth.
"I can't control them anymore," Ingrim whispered.
"...what?" Lillian gasped.
"I'm not trying to summon these masses like this," Ingrim insisted. "They just keep coming, they're coming Right Now!"
He pushed Lillian back and suddenly reared for a strike, panic flashing through his eyes.
"And I don't know if they're coming for you or for me!" he wailed, lashing his arm forward, directly for Lillian's chest.
Lillian blinked at the mass of black shooting for her and felt a sharp shiver run straight through her, from her toes, up her spine and out through her mouth, as a frantic scream. The claw never pierced her body though. Instead it fell limp to the ground, along with Lillian as she was dropped from Ingrim's grasp, the maskless Freaky suddenly roaring and shrieking with agony. Lillian rolled down the slanted shingles and caught herself on the roof ledge just before tumbling over.
Ingrim was stumbling by the central spire, clutching the oozing stump that was his arm, while the severed limb lay useless on the roof and melted into a sickly black puddle.
Ingrim heaved and snarled, doubling over as the Death Blood that made up his body sprouted a new limb for him, glaring over his shoulder. Vayu stood near the puddle that had been Ingrim's arm, she and her swords dripping with Death Blood, hair askew. If she could breath, Lillian knew Vayu would be panting right now. One of her arms was flung around a figure next to her, who had an arm around her shoulders as well, leaning on Vayu for support. Death Blood trickled from them and pooled around their gnarled feet before rolling down over the roof's ledge, into the nightmare of Freakies and Death Blood still bubbling up beneath them, at the base of the hut.
His wrapping and mane were stained, and his mask and figure were warped horribly, an eye blacked out entirely, but the other eye was painted a bright, insistent blue, glaring hard at Ingrim.
It was Rokuro.
Ingrim blinked, eyes flitting between Vayu and Rokuro.
"...oh you best be joking," he said.
Lillian scrambled to her feet (rather unsuccessfully at first) and ran squealing over to the two. Rokuro canted his head and stepped back, pushing Vayu into Lillian. The girls collided into a clumsy and unplanned hug, Lillian nearly in tears again.
"You're okay, you're okay! You're both okay!" Lillian wailed, placing her hands on Vayu's face.
"Rokuro caught me, he was climbing up!" Vayu explained, grinning.
Lillian heaved and tried to reach for Rokuro, ask him how he managed to escape the sea of Freakies and arrive just in time to save Vayu, but the Scamper would have none of it. He recoiled from Lillian's hand as she stretched her fingers out for him, like they were knives.
"Take her," Rokuro growled, turning to face Ingrim. "Get into the Wastelands."
"Not without you!" Vayu exclaimed, wrapping two arms around a bawked Lillian.
Ingrim bore his fangs at the group and raced forward. Rokuro seemed to collapse onto all fours, bracing for impact.
"I can't get Lil out of here and someone needs to take care of this bastard, so the latter's falling to me!" Rokuro roared. "GO!"
Rokuro leaped forward like a pouncing lion and collided with Ingrim's massive body half-way, both crashing into the roof and scrambling to get back up to go at it again.
"He's right, we need to go," Vayu said, looking down over the roof, a sea of Freakies climbing their way up the wall greeting her below.
"I told you he'd be fine the first Time and he'll be fine this Time, Now let's GO!" Vayu shouted, picking Lillian up off the ground and throwing herself off the roof.
"WAIT NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" Lillian shrieked, clinging to Vayu for life as the girls plummeted into the mess below.
"Just trust me, watch!"