As Cyndra rushed forward towards him, he put the pistol back into his spatial ring, hoping that he would have a few clashes to get the measure of her before he would be forced to shoot it, in order to repel the Creature’s Aether probes. This time, the Creature was sending them staggered, so one pierced in quickly, one medium speed, and the final one just revolved around, ripping the edges off of his Aether flood, managing it.
When his body hit the far wall, rebounding off of its cracked surface, Randidly spat out a mouthful of blood. He was barely able to keep his footing, and Cyndra was already ripping towards him, holding her two long knives high, her eyes glowing a bright and vivid violet.
“How…?” Randidly asked, shocked, but he didn’t have time, because she was already there in front of him. His body wasn’t cooperating, so, in spite of his thoughts on wasting so much Mana so early, he activated Ash to Ash for a brief second, letting the attack reduce his body to ash, condensing quickly several meters away.
Cyndra had to skip a few times this time, slightly stunned by swinging so powerfully without hitting anything. She twisted and glared at Randidly, the fury clear, even while her expression remained strangely distant.
Pursing his lips, Randidly opened up more distance. Already, his powerful regeneration was kicking in, mending his shattered ribs and the deep bruises in his hands, that had barely maintained a grip on his spear. Cyndra began to rush towards him again, quickly gaining a huge amount of momentum.
Although in terms of instant acceleration she wasn’t impressive, her top speed… and her strength…
At the last second, Randidly hopped to the side, dancing past her, and Cyndra’s eyes flashed, her hands blurring. Throwing knives shot outward, cracking against the bones of his cloak, cracking and breaking some. In addition, she stopped, not immediately, but with two short hops, dispersing her momentum, and rushed at him again. It was a slower turn than Randidly had, but the speed was more than he could manage.
Grimacing, Randidly tried to use roots and vines springing up to slow her, but he couldn’t get a handle on her ankles, and his attempts to trip her didn’t phase her in the least; she simply ripped through them with brute force.
Lucretia’s whisper drew him back to the other threat, and Randidly had to make a difficult decision. Honestly, it wasn’t so difficult, but Randidly hesitated for a split second before making it, almost shocked he had been pushed so far, so quickly. But he did it, gritting his teeth, taking one hand off of his spear, raising and shooting the pistol.
The Creature had gotten too greedy after Randidly was struck earlier, and once more lost two of its probes. The third one was far enough back that it was able to snatch it backward at the last minute, avoiding the sharp burning of Aether, and it rushed out immediately.
Looking at the two sharp knife blows coming towards him from Cyndra, Randidly gritted his teeth. He expelled Aether from himself like a rolling back of fog and shot the pistol again. With all the strength he could muster, weakened from overextending his Aether, he swung his spear to meet Cyndra’s blow, activating Yyrwood Flesh of Yggdrasil.
The Aether ignited once more, and the Creature’s probe was annihilated. It screeched in hatred, but then Cyndra’s blows reached Randidly, knocking aside his weakened strike and ripping two large gashes in his bone cloak, cutting deeply into his right shoulder and midsection.
There was enough force to throw him across the arena once more, and Randidly knew in a cold flash that if the Bone Cloak hadn’t been there, those blows would have cut him into three pieces, and no amount of high regeneration would have saved him. Already, he was at 60% life, just from two trades.
But Cyndra had stopped to finish her attack, and behind her was a Grasp of Lava, the fingers so hot they still glowed yellow. The thing closed on her with a satisfying thwap, and Cyndra grunted and fell to the ground.
Grinning, Randidly forced himself to stand, leveraging his body to his feet with his spear. Then, Cyndra also stood, wiping away the lava from her back, her skin red and sizzling, but seeming to be in no real danger.
“Village Dungeons,” Randidly spat out, like a curse.
The Creature licked its teeth. “Exactly. And I trained her with a bit more of a… specific target in mind. Capped her other stats at 250, and all the rest into Strength and Resistance. Be proud, she was designed to make you irrelevant. She even has about 700 fewer stats than you… But with a little focus…”
Randidly grimaced, doing some quick calculations in his head based on his memory of his stats. Then he cursed quietly. If he had basically ignored all the Mental stats and pushed it all into physical, he would likely have something like 500 Strength and Resistance. Which explained why when they crossed swords, he was smashed backward.
Based on what he had seen, later points in stats did less. But that was still a difference of about 300, at the very least. Which was higher than his Strength actually was. Effectively, treating her as though she was double as strong as him seemed to be the way to handle this. Which meant that a single knife could deal with him, while the other knife struck.
Gritting his teeth, Randidly focused on healing as much as possible as Cyndra rushed towards him again. He threw up a Wall of Thorns, blocking off vision, and a second later, she burst through. But as she did so, she paused briefly on her next step, scanning around.
Randidly, who had activated Twilight Manipulation to hide in the shadows of the arena, grinned, and instantly used about 30% of his Mana to fill the underground with Wall of Thorns. Although this build of Cyndra’s was powerful, it had some glaring weakness. It couldn’t have been Reaction to deal with that high speed, and it turned out that the Creature had skimped on Perception.
Lucretia’s warning came just in time, and Randidly doubled up on releasing Aether, because 4 of the Creature’s probes scythed through the air, homing towards him. They didn’t need any sort of perception and shot unerringly towards him. A split second later, Cyndra ripped her way through a wall of thorns and spotted him. Bellowing she launched herself towards him.
Randidly rolled out of the way, hoping that he would be able to stall with both of them aiming for him.
Tziech felt like a god of war walking through the monstrous invaders, a wedge of wargs following behind him. His right hand was a hammer, covered in that strange darkness, that insidious numbing frost, crushing the foes in front of it. Everything it touched was broken and destroyed, warped and shattered.
Meanwhile, his left hand was a gentler touch, pushing a blocking weapon a little to the side, pulling an ally just a half inch in the right direction to avoid a killing blow… Tziech felt like an orchestra host, moving through a choreographed waltz, controlling it all. As if in response, a few of the Two-Headed Reavers appeared, breathing that violet fumes, as if their very souls were aflame.
Tziech almost believed that they were, and would have felt pity for them, had they met under different circumstances. As it was…
Energy flared from his left hand, and the greatsword the one swung missed Tziech and slashed sideways, overbalancing the creature. The tip of the sword sank into its partner’s toes, setting it to howling in pain. Taking a step forward, Tziech met the third directly with a blow from his right arm, cracking its body, its vital fluids draining away to join the mush of flesh and bodies that now formed the ground upon which they stood.
Sighing, Tziech raised a hand to his forehead and peered forward while the wargs around him finished off the off balance and ill-prepared Reavers.
They had pierced very deeply into enemy lines. It was clear to Tziech that they had penetrated much farther, much faster than they had expected. But to each side, seas of Aether Thralls and Reavers screamed their hatred, preparing to give their lives to take the bright precious energy from this world.
He turned to the wargs behind him. “Head west, cutting through the forces and reinforcing the Spriggit lines. Once those midgets build up some momentum for their mechs, they will be able to cut through these little bugs like wheat.”
The captain nodded, his face stoic. Tziech almost wondered if he was supposed to slip a knife into his ribs on order on Varga, aiming for when he was most ill-prepared for it, paving her way to ascension as the Monster Queen. That would be the sort of move that she considered to be almost polite, to demonstrate that she considered him a real threat.
Nothing showed in the man’s face, however, and when he scanned the horizon, he saw what could only be Varga’s main force, absolutely mopping the floor with several hundred of the enemy, driving them into the drive to snipe and drown them.
“And you sir?” The Captain finally asked, snapping Tziech back to focus.
Grinning, he turned and looked towards the pulsing glow of energy on the horizon. Between him and that conduit, the huge, four-armed Devastator stood, its powerful lower jaw moving as its gaze covered the battlefield. On its legs, it stood at about 10 meters, towering over him. In a strange coincidence, with about a half mile separating them, their eyes met.
Tziech grin was wolfish. “I have a challenger to my seat as king of the monsters. You’ll excuse me to settle this in private.”
With that, he strode forward, carving a path to his opponent.