“When will you be leaving the city…?” Turn asked Ikaas, his face red, his grip on his glass of beer tight. Helen just sighed.
Being a chaperone was profoundly more fucking annoying than she would have expected. In her mind, her respect for her mother had risen a great deal; that she had the patience to sit through the absolute cart crashes that Helen’s dates were showed a sort of mental strength that defied imagination.
“Uh well…” Ikaas’ face was red too, but flushed in a good way. As it had become apparent that Helen really didn’t need to pay for liquor, the diminutive, innocent looking girl had begun downing the stuff like there was no tomorrow. What was perhaps most impressive about this exchange was that Ikaas was on her 12th beer, while Turn had 4, and they both appeared to be at the same level of intoxication.
It was… in a way cute, but in another way, rather daunting, because Helen was on her 6th and was starting to feel the edges of her vision blur. Perhaps… perhaps she had severely underestimated this cute cousin of hers.
“Well… whenever the Ghosthound… finishes, I believe…?” Ikaas finished, meandering through her words, looking to Helen for guidance. “We are supposed to stay until Helen leaves-”
“I’m not coming back with you,” Helen interrupted wearily. She had long suspected that her mother would try something like this, but she wasn’t going to bite into the temptations left for her. Even after spending time with Ikaas, familial affection hadn’t filled her, driving her to return to the leatherworking hovels she hailed from. If anything, it had filled her with surety that Ikaas could take care of herself.
Ikaas just shrugged helplessly and turned back to Turn, who simply burped, and smiled pleasantly at Ikaas. They both began to giggle like children. Helen sighed. The… Aether in her chest, flowing to her from the Ghosthound, spun softly, warming and cooling her at the same time, filling her with life.
The stores around them were closing, as it was now late in the night and most people were heading home, to sleep off the night’s alcohol in preparation to begin it again tomorrow. Helen honestly had no idea how the economy of Deardun was going to survive the tournament and the subsequent introduction of alcohol into the common activities. Most other businesses were ground to a halt. She supposed the nearby dungeon dives were still occurring, but-
An explosion shook the streets of Deardun. Helen and Turn both leapt to their feet, their battle instincts cutting through the haze of intoxication, peering towards the western part of the city, where the noise had originated. Turn frowned, and opened his mouth to speak, then a ripple crossed the entire city.
It was a Battle Intent communication, one that only a Pontiff level existence could create. It said that a dangerous criminal was being apprehended, and to avoid the site of the battle.
The absolute dominance of it made Helen shiver. She instinctively wanted to follow this will based communication, and return to drinking. Because everything was fine. It was a huge muffling sensation, as a will so large that it could affect a whole city settled over them.
“Fuck that,” Helen muttered, rubbing her arms and standing.
“You shouldn’t go…” Turn said nervously. “There’s no mistaking that the Styles of Deardun support what is happening. If you get involved-”
After a moment’s hesitation, Helen shook her head and still began walking towards the noise. Ikaas hopped up and followed, dragging along Turn, her eyes bright.
“Aren’t you at least curious?” The girl said, her mouth twisting in a smile. Then she skipped off after Helen. Turn felt the blood drain out of his face.
But he couldn’t resist her. And after chugging the rest of his liquor, he followed.
“We warned you,” The middle figure said simply. “The Spear Phantom Style was never to make it past the top 8. Now our only choice is to eliminate you.”
Randidly staggered to his feet. He had barely managed to throw himself backwards out of the way when the three had launched their first attacks, their wills all condensing and absolutely annihilating the spot where he had been standing.
Luckily, Shal had previously done similar sneak attacks while they were training in the prison, and the footwork was practically second nature at this point. Otherwise….
And based on the attack, all three of them were at the Artisan level. And their images weren’t flimsy like Randidly’s, they contained power.
“Why?” Randidly asked through gritted teeth, desperately using his will to cause his blood to seep back into his body, rapidly increasing his health. It wouldn’t restore him to full, but it would rid him of any encumbrances, and probably bring him back to about half health.
“We don’t monologue,” The middle figure, the spokesman of the group, said with a sneer in his voice, raising his spear and moving forward. The three figures were all of similar height, and were wearing brown robes. The only way to differentiate them was by their spears. The leader/center had a simple black spear. The man on his left had one that appeared to be brown and made of wood. The right man had a large golden spear.
“Do you think you can do just what you please inside the limits of Deardun?” Randidly said harshly, while feeling inwardly very, very nervous. But just as the familiar fear of death rose in his throat, the cold brutality he had learned in the prison rose to meet it. He produced his large obsidian spear, but winced, looking at the huge cracks running through it.
That… certainly wasn’t helpful.
The figures didn’t answer, but simply attacked.
What was even more intimidating was how well they worked together, splitting up and moving to surround him, as Black Spear blurred, rushing directly forward.
Randidly felt a sinking feeling in his chest, and produced several Walls of Thorns, getting rid of his assailants’ vision. But to his dismay, they simply ripped directly through the walls, not swayed in the least. Spearing Roots already ripped upward to meet them, but all three displayed a high level of agility, weaving through them.
Desperate, Randidly pressed with his will, and Spearing Roots shot sideways out of the previous roots, inflicting some small wounds. Golden Spear was especially affected by this, and a large gash was cut into his side. But it barely slowed him at all.
It was at that moment that Randidly rapidly used Phantom Half-Step, creating distance. But even then, his Stamina was rapidly depleted, and Black Spear was too fast, cutting through the distance faster than he could create it.
Although Randidly was fresh off a win, he had no confidence that he could withstand a direct strike from the other’s spear. Even just being in the area after he had dodged had left him with significant wounds. Aether roared in his body, some inner beat waking. His body began to heat, very, very rapidly, so that his bones began to burn.
With brilliant emerald eyes, Randidly bared his teeth. “Circle of Flame.”
A huge blast of flame rushed outwards, smashing into Black Spear, making even his tyrannical advance pause. Which was just what Randidly needed.
He activated Phantom Half-Step, teleporting towards Gold Spear, the slightly wounded one, twice in quick succession. Very quickly he appeared before the man, whose almost super human reactions meant that a spear was already whistling towards Randidly’s throat.
But it wasn’t an extremely accurate attack, and Randidly activating Phantom’s Embrace and moving rapidly away was enough to avoid the blow. Both of the other two adjusted with equal alacrity, although Black Spear seemed singed, and slightly slower than previously.
Raising his hand, Randidly continued to run away through the hole he had made for himself while shooting several Incinerating Bolts. He may as well not have bothered, the three spear users weaved around the bolts without the slightest decrease in speed. Several beads of sweat wound their way down Randidly’s temples as the Aether inside of him roared in challenge.
Everything began to spin in a furious current, growing stronger and stronger in his chest. Randidly spared the surrounding area a swift glance. Not only had help not arrived, but there was no one on the streets. It’s as if…
They were being kept away by the powers that be. That this attack on him… was sanctioned.
Randidly’s heart sunk as he remembered the words of his attackers, and the warning that Bertarn had given him about proceeding past the top 8. If these people were really supported by the city… Then no foreign help would arrive.
Shal was out of commission, and Divvet was watching him. Aside from them, Randidly didn’t think there were any powerful spear users in the area.
“Hahaha… need help, little boy…?” A dry and almost dead Aether Tether in Randidly’s chest vibrated, and a soft, feminine voice filled Randidly’s ears.