Lyra sighed softly, looking at Tykes, unconscious on the ground. Seeing as a Village Spirit was different than seeing as a human. Everything was waves and momentum. Which is why it was so difficult to answer certain questions; it was flying directly in the face of that momentum. She had managed it once, by keeping a faction of the Tribulation’s existence captive, burning it to distract those waves briefly, but it had still cost her quite a bit.
She had a few ideas how she could do it again, but there wasn’t any point in doing it currently; there were no monsters lurking around the corner. Just one awkward situation that everyone in the village seemed to have forgotten about for now.
After gazing back towards the village center for several minutes, she looked back towards Randidly. The thread connecting them had almost completely dispersed, so that there was nothing left. Opening her Eyes of Wonder, she saw him, perhaps exactly how he was. Tired, and the light he cast was much, much dimmer.
But the core of that flame was still a brilliant emerald. He hadn’t given up, even though his reserves were almost completely empty.
What did it mean, now that she had hastened the destruction of their connection by designating Tykes as the new village Blade…? Would her fascinating with him disappear…? Would he continue to treat her so mildly….?
Turning back to her new village Blade, she considered him closely. Although Nul had been punished by his choice, Lyra sincerely doubted that a similar thing would happen to her. After all, the momentum and waves around him, especially during this bout with Randidly, had bound him very tightly to Donnyton’s fate, which had prompted her to make her move. It was easy as breathing, giving him that designation, and he had immediately risen from the ground, keeping Donnyton in the fight.
Now all that remained to be seen was who his Sheath would be. She stopped using Eyes of Wonder, and simply felt. The threads of momentum gathering, but it wasn’t here. It was to the South. Lyra looked in that direction for several seconds, her eyes glowing violet. Then she turned back to the arena.
Regardless of what they were now, Lyra would stand and witness this man who had shown her what true beauty was. Whether or not he won or lost, she would watch every second of it.
Randidly bared his teeth, in almost a snarl. His opponents were almost at full strength, while he was running on ⅓ of his usual stamina, with no more secret stornes to draw on. His mana was almost completely gone, perhaps enough for several smaller spells, or one big one.
And they weren’t giving him enough time for his monstrous regeneration rates and skills to make up the difference.
Roaring, Dozer led the charge this time, club raised. Kayle and Decklan glided swiftly after him, ready to swoop in at the slightest opening. Donny ran directly behind Dozer, his golden skill spreading to them all.
It would make it difficult to deal significant enough damage to put any out of commission, but Randidly wanted to experiment a little with its effects before he committed too heavily.
But the wide swing taken by Dozer was not something that Randidly wanted to trifle with, especially now. He stepped forward, activating only Empower, using a tiny amount of stamina to rush into Dozer’s range. Still, Dozer’s arms swung forward, smashing towards Randidly’s chest.
With another Empowered step, Randidly ducked under that and past him, eyes narrowing as two glimmering lines of light raced towards him.
But Randidly didn’t take another step, within the range of those slashes from Kayle and Decklan. Instead, he turned and slammed his fist into Dozer’s side, aiming for the kidneys. The yellow runes absorbed around 25% of the damage, which flowed back toward Donny, who grunted lightly. The rest pierced through the spell and hit Dozer, who didn’t even respond. Randidly had been aware that Dozer, Decklan, and Donny had all reached Lvl 30 and gotten a class skill. Dozer’s, he recalled, had been called Constitution of the Troll, a passive skill that had vastly increased his defense and regeneration.
Combined with Donny’s skill, it let Dozer easily shrug off attacks off this level. As Randidly watched, he simply turned back, reaching out to grab at him.
He used this time to punch again, catching Dozer in the stomach. Still, the spell was too effective; it wasn’t enough to damage him in the slightest. Kayle raced forward, trying to take advantage of the distraction, but Randidly flicked a Phantom Thrust forward, catching Kayle in the sternum, throwing him backwards.
Dozer twisted, just bring his arm down in a chopping blow, and Randidly pivoted, raising his pole and deflecting the blow away. The force caused to the wood to vibrate dangerously.
Donny stayed back, but Paolo came then, fists swinging. He had apparently been holding back slightly before, because there was a sharpness to his movements that was new; or perhaps he had gained some skill levels over the course of the fight. As it was, without Haste and Empower, Randidly had a hard time keeping up with them all, and he mostly allowed the glancing blows to land. They would leave bruises, but…
As Decklan rushed in on the other side, and Dozer pulled back for another blow, Randidly saw his chance. He lashed out with a Roundhouse kick, aiming for Paolo’s side. The man responded quickly, his eyes narrowing, and he made the very ballsy decision to catch the kick, taking the damage to lock Randidly down for a short time.
Randidly smiled. Exactly as planned.
Even before Paolo had completely grabbed the leg, Randidly’s other leg was raised. Before Paolo even saw it, he stepped on his face, kicking off and throwing himself backwards. Although the spell absorbed some of the force, the brutal kick’s effectiveness could be seen in Paolo’s dizzy eyes as he fell back.
Flying backwards now, from the force of the kick, Randidly twisted around, aiming to catch Decklan. But Dozer had recovered and stepped in the way. Decklan landed lightly, on Dozer’s back, watching Randidly shoot towards them. Dozer’s eyes glowed as he swung his club at Randidly’s midair form.
Swearing quietly, Randidly twisted, using some mana to press a root upward, which he used as a stepping stone to leap to the side. Unfortunately, Decklan saw this as it was happening, and ripped forward, knives raised.
Twisting further, Randidly used the pole to deflect the attacks, but felt two long knives sink deeply into his back. One even punctured his lung.
Randidly tapped on the ground, and then jumped farther away. Grinding his teeth, he considered his opponents. Fighting without enough stamina to use Phantom Half-Step severely limited his mobility. He had become entirely too dependant on potions. He wasn’t used to simply fighting among enemies without them.
Grunting, he removed the knives from his back while his opponents circled around him.
The main problem was Dozer and Donny. Donny’s skill protected Dozer enough that Randidly’s force was reduced to a level he could force his way through it. The rest of the Classers Randidly could hurt; Dozer he could not hurt.
But getting to Donny meant going through Dozer. Dozer was the pillar in their midst that kept the formation alive. He interfered with Randidly’s strikes, and was the one who bore the brunt of the damage. As long as that continued… Randidly would spent his stamina uselessly.
Paolo shook his head, regaining some of his clarity. Decklan drew two more long knives, one of which was the knife that Randidly had given him all that time ago. Dozer lumbered forward. He previous strikes had rapidly reduced their fighting force, but the Classers in front of him had not been swayed. They still held tightly, almost grimly, onto hope.
So now was time to gamble, huh…?
Randidly smiled at Dozer, raising the pole. “The Spear Advances, Ash Trails.”
Mrs. Hamilton felt her hands tighten into fist as the Ghosthound spoke. So he finally decided to play his last card, huh…?
The Ghosthound, ultimately, was not able to equal Donnyton’s forces in an extended confrontation. There was simply too many of them capable of skills. So he had used a series of vicious bursts to reduce their staying power, whittling away their will. That had left this group, who had enough health and stamina to push through his area of effect skills. They needed to be dealt with individually, and at great cost.
Of them all, of course, the tanks were the real problem. If they weren’t there, he could continue to use bursts to attack. As it were, they would just endure it, and then crush him.
So he was forced to this.
With an impossible powerful explosion of fire and ash, the Ghosthound shot forward, pole raised towards Dozer. The speed with which he traveled made reactions impossible. The two figures smashed together, and just as quickly, parted with a crack.
Dozer stumbled, and spat out a mouthful of blood.
The Ghosthound skipped forward, bleeding off some of his speed, and stopped and turned, looking at them with glowing eyes. There was an anger there, and an unwillingness.
With exaggerated slowness, the Ghosthound raised his hand, holding it above his head. A smoldering fire began to form.
“Inspiration…!” His words were raw and angry.Dozer turned and raised his club, barely maintaining his stance. Donny rushed forward to stand by him, and activated Aegis. The other three ran behind the tanks.
Surprising everyone, even herself, Mrs. Hamilton said. “Can you see how much they want this victory, Randidly?”
Those violent, hungry emerald eyes turned towards her, the fire held above the Ghosthound’s head slowly glowing brighter. He smiled.
But then everything dimmed, all at once. The Ghosthound let his hand fall. “…they don’t need to want it any longer; they have won.”
Without another word, the Ghosthound dropped the pole and walked away, out of the arena and towards the treeline. People parted, unsure of what just happened.
“What just happened?” Sam gasped. “He gave up…?”
Mrs. Hamilton took a very long breath in and out, and then shook her head slowly. As the Ghosthound slowly walked, he passed the area where the defeated squads stood, there was a strange tension. Then, abruptly, a man stepped forward.
The squad leader of Squad III stepped towards the Ghosthound, then bowed. “Thank you for your guidance.”
Behind him, in a wave, all of the defeated classers bowed. “Thank you.”
It was a dull thunder. Echoing out, filling the silence, these two words were everything that they wanted to say to this man. He started the village, he protected them, he taught them about classes and skills, and then he showed them how weak they were, and also how strong they could be.
And so the people said Thank You.
The Ghosthound walked, not acknowledging the words, just walking into the forest. He had said everything he had to say already, with that pole. He had explained clearly what he had expected from them, what demanded from the squads, in the name of Donnyton’s defense.
And to that pole, Mrs. Hamilton pointed.”…It could be say that the Ghosthound lost to the situation more than anything else.”
Daniel snorted. “What, is he going to be a sore loser about the numbers, now? Why-”
“No, you idiot,” An annoyed Annie, nursing a brutal headache, said. “Look at the pole. It broke when it hit Dozer.”
Daniel blinked. Sure enough, the poles tip had cracked, a good ¼ falling to the ground around the site of the blow. With that much of the force dispersed, it was still enough to blast through Donny’s defensive skill, and heavily wound Dozer.
But it wasn’t enough to put Dozer out of commission. The pillar had not fallen. And for whatever reason, the Ghosthound had stayed his hand at the last second, letting them off.