Helen felt her eyes drifting closed as she fought, even as the two men had their expressions change from lust to something much more serious. Helen’s grin was wicked.
“Fucking perverts,” She said, laughing inwardly, as she swayed between their admittedly powerful, but rough attacks. Although they were both fine spear users, they had no concept of teamwork between them, so their overall utility was heavily inhibited by each other. Their skills and methods were not complimentary at all. Soon, their serious gazes turned into annoyance as they were as much foiled by each other as Helen.
The large man rushed towards her, slashing diagonally towards her with her spear. Helen pretty easily swayed under the blow, and the pudgy man sprung forward, executing a fearsome thrust.
She pirouetted to the side, the thrust ripping a small gash in her leather armor, but the attack also made the large man, who was rushing towards Helen’s exposed back, hastily jump to the side to avoid the blow. The two men glared at each other for a second, then grudgingly turned back to Helen, their eyes once more regaining a lustful tint as they traced Helen’s curves.
Normally Helen would be infuriated by the flagrant disregard of her skill as a spear user, and even now that was annoying, but the dodging, the flowing moves… something was coming alive inside of Helen. It was a cool, icy electricity, a lump of spinning stardust in her chest that seemed to be animating her whole body. Tingling streams flowed outward, and she felt strangely alive.
Several small bits of information came together in her head. The energy released by Randidly in the past. The way her mother always recommended that Helen find a man who could complete dungeons, and sleep with him immediately after he returned from a victorious dungeon. It was pretty common knowledge that a man’s seed contained some fraction of the Aether that he had in his body, and a woman could take from for herself with her body.
Which, at the time, disgusted Helen. Not that she had any interest in sex, especially with the leatherworkers she had grown up around, but it was repugnant to her that she would effectively trade her body for a night in exchange for a bit of Aether. She already obtained some from her class, what was the point in having more?
But now, with this wondrous energy coursing through her, practically sculpting itself according to her will… Helen’s heart rate was skyrocketing, but at the same time, her vision became strangely bright and pristine. It was like the two men in front of her were slow moving monkeys, trying to catch her.
The huge man rushed forward, smashing downward with a powerful blow. Helen flowed around it, her spear flicking out to hit him in the side, sending him stumbling. The pudgy man blanched, seeing Helen approach like a swift death, but he was still a spear user. He raised his spear in a defensive posture, and thrust forward to meet her advance.
Helen breathed very deeply, the stardust in her chest now exploding outward, like a levy bursting and unleashing a flood. She had to hold that breath, because the strange feeling made it impossible for her to contract her lungs. It was a strange stasis, but to her surprise, her senses continued to sharpen to a point, every detail of the pudgy man appearing before her eyes.
Congratulations! Your Skillset: The River’s Three Bends (Un) can undergo a change. Would you like to allow this to happen?
Warning, this will require a large quantity of energy. If you possess insufficient fuel, weakness or death may result. Do you wish to proceed?
Of course, Helen didn’t even think about it. She didn’t know of anyone who truly was willing to pass up the opportunity to have their own created skill set, or to expand it. Because it was a path to a future that you forged for yourself. Helen thought yes, and she was filled with a rush of inspiration.
Congratulations! Your Skillset has become The River’s Four Bends ®. You have learned the skill The Fourth Bend: Surging Rapids (Un) Lvl 1.
With blazing eyes, Helen surged forward, passing the thrust of the pudgy man, and her spear ripped upward, knocking his weapon upwards, so it was pointing towards the sky, and the pudgy man’s body was completely unprotected. His eyes widened in horror.
The huge man launched an attack towards Helen’s back, but she was already bursting forward, filled with the strange ferocity of her Fourth Movement: Surging Rapids. She brought her spear across and smashed the pudgy man so far that he hit the railing of the boat and tumbled over.
“Fucking perverts.” Helen said gleefully, turning to face the larger man, whose expression was quite ugly.
Wincing Randidly once more dodged to the side. His spear flicked out and ripped a small gash in Jacktat’s cheek, but the man was a furious god of war now, ignoring the damage and smashing forward with his spear once more. It was appropriate that this man had a thunder related style. He definitely had the power and delivery to back it up.
Also, Randidly’s earlier statement that he had the strength to stand up against an Artisan was slowly becoming more and more hollow. Sure, he had survived, and he had inflicted quite a few small wounds, but… It was becoming increasingly clear that he couldn’t stand up to the power of Jacktat’s strikes, and the opposing spear user had enough rhythm to make it very difficult to land any hits that would inflict real damage.
Roaring, Jacktat advanced, smashing back and forth with his spear. Randidly retreated, using Phantom Half Step and Footwork of the Spear Phantom to maintain a pretty solid grip on the distance between them. Once more, Randidly slashed outward, hitting a few glancing blows on Jacktat’s arms, but that didn’t slow him down at all; in fact, it seemed to incense him further, and he rushed forward, his heavy spear raised.
Grimacing, Randidly leapt to the side. He definitely would have preferred to have a lighter spear at times like this, when he was completely eclipsed in terms of power. Someday, Randidly vowed to himself, someday he would bully others with the power of his strikes. But for now…
His control that approached 200 was making itself very known in the way Randidly was able to easily maneuver his body to where he wanted, keeping Jacktat from being able to find his footing in his attacks. Randidly knew he could probably get an advantage and pressed forward with it with spells, but he was hesitant to use any of them while everyone was fighting so chaotically on top of the boat. His fire spells could burn the thing to a shell of itself, and Randidly didn’t want to create a root that would eventually trip up one of his spear attendants.
After leaping to the side and rushing under Jacktat’s guard, slashing his spear and ripping a pretty sizable gash in the man’s side, Randidly glanced around, looking for the status of his spear attendants.
Helen seemed to have already beaten one of her enemies, and the second one was retreating away, in a very sorry state. With a pleased smile, Randidly looked at Teliph who had also defeated one of his opponents, the man with 6 spears, and was now clashing in a flurry of blows against the wispy man, who had a strange, unpredictable style of fighting. Although it seemed that this battle was less settled than Helen’s, it was still even, and Randidly wouldn’t have to worry about them gaining victory anytime soon and harassing him.
But the male spear attendant…. Randidly sighed. He really should just learn the man’s name, because he was no longer the only male spear attendant he had, but Randidly just had this weird suspicion that asking the man his name would end up encouraging him to go on a long monologue about himself, when Randidly simply wanted something else to call him.
The risk was too great; the benefit was not worth the cost of failure.
A smashing overhand blow from Jacktat caught Randidly by surprise, due to his meandering thoughts, and Randidly was forced to block it directly. His arms trembled, and the planks of the boat underneath him groaned from the force.
Following up quickly, Jacktat twisted and brought the spear around in a horizontal sweep. Randidly made to dodge but just staggered, barely managing to get his cramping legs to obey him. It wasn’t just strength, it was also a mild paralysis effect to Jacktat’s attacks that made it very dangerous to continue to fight directly against him. Randidly was forced to use Phantom Half Step and blow quite a bit of stamina to fuly dodge the attack.
Randidly instantly sucked all the stamina he had stored in the rings on his hands, replenishing his stores very quickly. But his chest was still heaving, and only now was feeling slowly working its way back into his legs.
Jacktat sneered. “All you can do is run. This is a disgrace. You still dare claim you have the strength to resist me?!?”
“All you can do is swing wildly at the air. Don’t act like your successes are anything but the result of blockheaded repetition.” Randidly snapped. He immediately regretted engaging Jacktat, mostly because of the interaction with such a detestable stranger, but the words did seem to fit another purpose.
Jacktat’s face because twisted, his eyes somehow narrowed and overly opened at once, so his eyes looked wide, like a goats. “Good! Good, good, good!”
Then Jacktat rushed forward, a strange, new energy crackling around his body. So far, Randidly had simply dealt with the man’s superior skill levels, and likely stats. But now…
Randidly had a feeling that he would find out what the man had used to earn himself the title of Artisan.
In the darkness of his cabin, Shal breathed slowly. So slowly that there were several minutes between breathes. He did not do this because he needed to breath; his Vitality and Endurance were far above the levels where it was necessary to engage in such things. Shal continued to breath in order to keep time.
He had sensed the clashes beginning above, and he had sealed away his senses, so nothing would distract him. Even that much was a small burden on his pitiable amount of Aether, which he couldn’t afford. It was a frustrating situation.
So Shal continued to breath, counting the minutes passed. He had to have patience. Necessarily, Shal couldn’t accomplish this himself. That was why he had even allowed this to happen. Randidly would be carrying most of the weight in the next portion; he would need to make it to the top 4 of the Regional Tournament. After that…
Then, then was when Shal needed his strength. For now….
He simply breathed, waiting for the Regional Tournament.