Randidly’s spear blurred as he thrust it forward, aiming for the center of Bertarn’s mass. Although he couldn’t out endure Bertarn, if he could give his Flesh Eating Virus a chance to do his work, it would make his long term viability much more realistic.
Unfortunately, although Bertarn was caught off guard, he hadn’t totally lost his focus, and was able to bring up the shaft of his spear, knocking the thrust away. So Randidly simply raised his hand and pointed, undeterred.
Bertarn’s eyes widened in recognition just as Randidly raised his hand, but it was already too late. Or at least Randidly had assumed so, but he appeared to have underestimated Bertarn’s Agility. Twisting wildly, Bertarn made it so the bolt of fire only clipped his arm pit, sizzling his skin and filling the arena with the smell of burnt flesh, but largely preserving the structural integrity of his musculature.
‘Well, let’s push a bit harder than, shall we?’ Randidly thought to himself.
“Pierce the Skies, Shatter the Earth!”
Behind Bertarn an image of a mountain was already starting to form, and he was rapidly regaining his balance, even as Randidly struck several times in quick succession after the Incinerating Bolt. The only choice was to up the tempo.
Randidly’s body hurtled upward, and Bertarn calmly stepped backwards, avoiding any of the damage. But then, at the apex of his jump, Randidly flexed his arms and flung his obsidian spear downwards, creating a monstrous projectile reminiscent of a ballista. Bertarn’s calm eyes scanned the descending spear, and he raised his spear to meet it.
But then his face twisted in a scowl, and he roared his fury, the mountain behind him wavering slightly, stuck between formation and remaining a mirage; he had been pierced from below by roots while his attention was elsewhere.
Even though the roots were annoying, his powerful physical body meant that the wounds were rather shallow. He stopped his feet and shook his legs to rip through the roots, but at that point the spear arrived. Most of the momentum that was to be Randidly’s when he fell to the ground had been transferred to the spear, so when the spears clashed, there was a huge noise and explosion of force.
Bertarn gritted his teeth and stumbled backwards. Midair, Randidly used the White Phantom’s Half-Step, moving rapidly closer, touching lightly down on the ground right in front of Bertarn. Without even a flicker of hesitation, Randidly stepped forward, under the raised spear of the towering Bertarn, arriving in front of him.
But Bertarn was still a powerful spear user; he quickly sniffed out that Randidly was approaching rapidly, even if he didn’t know what his plans were. Bertarn brought his spear down in a blow that had the air screaming. Displaying a remarkable amount of Grace and flexibility, Randidly spun away, avoiding the cracked battle ground and arriving only scant inches away from Bertarn’s side.
The corners of his mouth quirked up in a smile as Randidly watched Bertarn’s head swivel around to glare balefully at him. Truly, only one battle a day was best. That way he could spend his mana freely, without worry.
“Circle of Flame.”
The fire exploded outward, burning Bertarn’s skin further. Roaring, Bertarn managed to grit his teeth through the pain and concussive force only after two steps backwards, finding once more his stance. The mountain seemed to solidify, becoming increasingly real, ravines and ridges revealing themselves across its stony surface.
Randidly activated Burning Footsteps, due to the amount of mana he had to spare, but also to inflict a small amount of constant damage to Bertarn, should he be able to stay near. Although his Physical Defense stats were high, Randidly suspected that he was much more susceptible to magic damage.
An image of a large clock appeared behind Randidly, and low hysterical laughter could be heard echoing. Around Randidly a cloak of darkness seemed to descend, shrouding his features and his exact position.
Randidly’s roots, those that had earlier inflicted only a small amount of damage on Bertarn but distracted him at a critical point, lifted Randidly’s spear and handed it back to him. Immediately, Randidly slashed forward.
The mountain behind Bertarn seemed to tremble, and now it solidified, rocks beginning to tumble down its side, forming a rockslide. Bertarn’s eyes burned as his powerful strike rumbled forward to meet Randidly’s.
Randidly grinned. The clock ticked ominously.
“The Idiosyncratic Cut.”
Bertarn blinked as Randidly’s spear seemed to teleport forward. Randidly immediately activated Haste, Empower, Mana Strengthening, and the active form of Yggdrasil’s golden roots, raising his striking power to its maximum point. After all, this skill severely weakened his striking power, and Randidly had to be sure to wound Bertarn while he was still thrown off tempo.
He needn’t have worried. The slash ripped a huge gash across Bertarn’s chest, spraying blood everywhere. Although Bertarn was strong, the obsidian spear was similarly dominating, and ripped open his flesh.
Randidly stepped forward, past Bertarn and out of the way of his strike, which made the very air shake with its force.
Then he pivoted smoothly and regarded Bertarn, his senses picking up the small fizzling noise already coming from Bertarn’s chest.
The flesh eating virus was more intimidating than Randidly had imagined. It was hard to tell its exact effect, but it could probably neutralize a lot of Bertarn’s Health Regeneration. But he had only landed one significant wound after expending over 50% of his mana.
Randidly moved forward again, leaving a trail of flaming footsteps behind him, not allowing Bertarn to catch his breath. He struck again and again, weaving Inevitable Phantom Arrives and the Idiosyncratic Cut together to keep Bertarn from truly grasping his timing. More and more small wounds appeared across Bertarn’s body, but his expression had frozen into a stoic acceptance, his spear moving competently to block Randidly’s advance.
But Randidly wouldn’t let him off that easily.
Bertarn felt it in the wounds, a strange wrongness that began to spread, becoming a weakness, a slowness. This was poison.
A part of him was furious at the dishonorable conduct, but another part had a deep respect for the Ghosthound. He was only passable in terms of spear usage, but he could seamlessly strike at Bertarn with his spear while attacking with spells and other skills. Bertarn watched his opponent’s spells very closely. They were powerful, sure, but…
Then, as the Ghosthound’s spear seemed to twist around his own and score another shallow cut on his forearm, Bertarn saw it. It wasn’t the spells either, that made this man so powerful. They too were rather unpolished, probably at a sub 100 Skill Level. The first, and more confusing of the two strengths of the Ghosthound was the fact that he seemed to have quite a few stat points, and by extension, skills.
Perhaps even more than Bertarn, who had thought he had pushed his body to the limit in terms of the amount of physical skills he could learn before Aether Starvation forced him to take a class. There was a breadth of Skills that he had that access to that had all risen to significant, if not impressive levels. Bertarn suspected the man in front of him had double as many skills as he did.
As for the second thing… it was as though the Ghosthound didn’t even understand the difficulty of working active skills into his style. They moved seamlessly. Either he had trained a very long time for this sort of genius level integration, or more disturbingly, he had waited to learn the spear until he had gained access to his active skills.
Those two fields had grown together, twining perfectly. Which would explain why his spear work was so shallow, but also….
It also made Bertarn wonder. If the Ghosthound had waited to train in the spear until he had a class, and also until he pushed himself to a level where he could learn spells…. He seemed to be in his early 20s, so he could at most have been training in the spear for 7 or so years. To reach this level of mastery after 7 years….
Bertarn smiled bitterly.
Again and again the Ghosthound struck, his eyes burning emerald, using flame and root and spear to wound Bertarn and drive him back. The man was also a master at striking where he didn’t expect it, keeping Bertarn off his game and unable to hit him with the full force that he could muster. He effectively was keeping Bertarn at around 80% of his max strength, which was still stronger than the Ghosthound, but it was not overpowering enough to make up the difference that was created by the Ghosthound’s spells.
Abruptly, Bertarn found himself extremely tired. He had encountered this a lot in his life, this difference between himself and the opponent. Despite his training, despite his hard work…
Sometimes Bertarn found himself face to face with an existence he could only describe as a “Genius”, and all his struggles were futile.
Something inside of him folded, and Bertarn spoke quietly.