Sergeant Platton carefully schooled his expression. He couldn’t show weakness now, not while he was standing next to these three youths and the smashed remnants of his squad. Latta was dead, and with his high Perception, Platton could smell that Daskin pissed himself.
Above them, three tall puppets loomed. But Platton kept his eyes on the strange crystalline beetle that climbed out of the scarred body. That was the true body of the Propagator, and the only way to stop the larger puppets. It was information so classified that Platton had to overhear it to learn, but now he was glad he had. The two months of solitary he received as a reprimand for being where he shouldn’t was worth it.
“…regardless of your bravery,” Platton began slowly. “Word needs to get out. We can send a message, but I am… already considered somewhat radical for my beliefs. Hopefully the lives of you elites will be enough. One of you needs to escape, preferably all of you. You are the young talent of our world. You don’t deserve to die here.”
They had straight spines and burning eyes, Platton noticed with a sad expression. These four would choose to throw themselves into the fire to pursue the pinnacle of their spear arts. The tragedy of it was such that Platton couldn’t remain silent. “…you know if you stay here, it is all but guaranteed that you will die.”
He considered the four geniuses. The charismatic and social Silo, who was clearly harboring a deep darkness born of desperation. The calm and enigmatic Skarch, with the typical overwhelming power of the Spear School. Azriel, whose small body belied the speed and penetrating power of her spear.
Finally… there was the one they called Ghosthound. Bare feet and a spear that seemed more living vine than weapon were his calling cards. His eyes were a brilliant green that seemed to glow. His Class of Spellspear had been unbelievably helpful in their approach on the base. It was exceedingly rare to find such a talented individual in this world that could use spear arts and spells. Platton hadn’t had a chance to witness the fellow’s spear arts, but he assumed that if he made it this far, they were at least passable enough to buy him time to use his spells.
No, these four definitely needed to survive.
But before Platton could say anything further, the enemies around them began to move. The giant puppets took several steps farther so that they cast long shadows across the group. Around them, the lesser Wights were forming up into columns and blocking them in.
When Daskin spoke, the panic in his voice was clear. “We… we need to escape! If someone can distract the big ones… I’ll-”
“You’ll stay,” Platton said harshly. And it even came out more harshly than he intended, because Daskin jumped. “We are the enlisted soldiers, we won’t let these kids be the ones to die for us.”
“You know… it’s been a while since I thought about it. That I could die.”
Platton turned and glanced at Silo. The young man drank a potion and his arm snapped back into place. After wincing, he glared up at the puppets. “But… I doubt I will die here. If I was such a tiny existence to fail here, I wouldn’t have gotten so far. Do you see? Because I have the destiny that carried me this far, a small hurdle such as this… It isn’t enough to stop the advance of a hero. No matter what they say, I’ll prove what I’m worth.”
Azriel snorted at her teammate’s words and turned to the Ghosthound. “Can you bind them up? At least one?”
The Ghosthound shook his head. “All of my Mana was consumed making that thing.” He inclined his head towards the huge geyser of flame that was slowly ebbing away. “I can’t believe it lived through it. In terms of durability… well, I guess I already knew conventional attacks wouldn’t work. We need to keep them busy the old fashioned way.”
“This will be difficult,” Skarch said lightly.
Frowning, Platton bellowed, “What are you talking about! You four fools- I’m the superior officer in this situation, you’ll listen to my orders and-”
“A hero never retreats!”
The Ghosthound smiled at Platton, and his smile was reminiscent of a hungry wolf. “…well there you have it. Skarch, you are strong, but not this strong. You are in charge of clearing a path. You… Daskin, right? Lead the other members of your squad and follow through the hole. We three will buy time. Sergeant… assist whoever is in the most trouble, if you please.”
“Humph, your plan is uninspired, but at least it gives me the chance to shine…” Silo said with a wide smile. His whole body began to glow with a pale light. On cue, Skarch flourished her spear and rushed back towards the gathering Wights.
“Don’t you fucking dare!” Platton bellowed, but they were already moving. A pair of long crimson ribbons condensed behind Azriel, stemming from the small of her back. Above the Ghosthound’s head, a strange metal crown emerged that seemed to be made by just soldering vicious spikes to a thin circlet.
The rest of Platton’s squad exploded into motion, following Skarch. The strange crystalline beetle chirped and the three giant puppets of the Propagator surged into motion. One unleashed a booming sonic blast, while the other two just turned into grey blurs as they maximized their huge physical capabilities.
Something snapped in Platton. It truly seemed that these fools would choose death over an easy survival. If that was the case…
He needed to aim for the true target.
In an explosion of smoke, he teleported forward to land next to the badly burned body that served as a mount for the beetle. The force of the concussive sound hit the ground behind him, and Platton hoped the rest had made it out of the way. The beetle clicked its teeth threateningly and the gaunt body lashed out with its hand. To Platton’s surprise, the blow was fast. Faster even than the larger puppets.
Although he raised his spear, his weapon was cracked in half and he was thrown sideways. All by a casual backhand.
Gleefully, the beetle buzzed, and a strange, melodious song rose amongst the Wights.
“Too loud. Wild Phantom’s Embrace… Counter, As the Sun Stills.”
There was a huge crash above where Platton had landed, and he looked up to see one of the large puppets stumbling backward. Its foot caught on a chunk of molten metal that had fallen from the geyser and it fell backward. There was a soft tap as a barefoot form landed next to Platton. He looked up and took the Ghosthound’s hand.
He was pulled roughly to his feet.
Platton’s eyes widened as he looked at the Ghosthound. The man’s hands were ripped to shreds. It looked like the force of the hit had ripped apart the membrane between the thumb and the rest of his hands. His fingers were twitching softly. Luckily, his living spear curled around his arm.
“Help Silo, that idiot doesn’t have the juice for this,” The Ghosthound said, shaking his head. Then, before Platton’s eyes, the Ghosthound’s hands slowly began to heal. Grimacing, the young man looked down at his hands and sighed. “This… will be difficult.”
“If you have this much power, escaping won’t be that difficult,” Platton said shortly, eyeing the rapid healing. “But if we want to strike a blow…”
“It was just watching until you attacked it,” The Ghosthound said quietly. The strange crown above his head seemed to throb with a restrained fury. The air around it distorted. “It’s playing with us. Perhaps… let’s not force the issue of whether we are a match for it quite yet.”
Platton nodded shortly, deciding not to point out that he had already realized this point. Instead, he turned and leaped off to help Silo. And it was true, the young man was being forced backward by the powerful sonic attacks of the large metal puppet. He was panting and bleeding, and that desperation was growing larger in Silo’s eyes.
As he moved, Platton spared a glance for Azriel and was surprised to see that the girl had turned into a streak of crimson that was dashing around the puppet and slamming into it. The large puppet was blurring into motion to cope, smashing its hands down to block off the avenues for the crimson streak to attack. But the streak just avoided the attacks and continued to slowly chip away the body of the giant thing.
And ahead of them, off to the side, Skarch was ripping through the common Wights like she was a warship cutting through shallow waters. Her attacks smashed back entire waves of the fools. They threw Psychic Poison, but as long as she maintained her momentum, they would break out of the encirclement.
So Platton’s attack focused back to one point as he looked at Silo struggling to avoid the powerful attacks of the large puppet. Letting out a breath, Platton stored his spear away and removed the small leather glove on his left hand. There, on the palm, there was a small chip of topaz embedded into his hand. As he prodded it with his consciousness, several notifications came up.
You have activated your Fate! You will not be able to activate your Fate for 24 hours after this moment if it becomes deactivated.
Your Fate is Level 2. Exposing your Fate to powerful opponents will increase its Level. But be careful, it is possible for the Fate to shatter. Current Benefits: Gain 1 Health for every enemy killed while the Fate is active, gain an additional 2 free Stat points per Level. Agility is increased by 10.
The power of the System fills you! Your Patron of Pollution has blessed you with her power. The Cursed Topaz on your body has formed into the Vicious Gauntlet. All attacks will now include the Skill Corrosive Touch (System) Lvl 16. This Level may increase with use but does not generate PP. Level is capped by the Level of your Fate times 10.
Corrosive Touch (System): The blessing of the System gained by tying your fate to the System. All attacks that hit an enemy will corrode their physical and mental forms. The stronger the form, the slower the effect is. However, as this is a blessing of the System, the power is great. Your ability to channel the System’s great Skill increases with Skill Level.