“The Spear Advances, Ash Trails!” Randidly bellowed, his whole Soul Space howling with the strain of producing even more Aether. There was a sense, in his bones, that there would be some lasting damage, some cost from funneling so much Aether through his body, although that seemed strange to Randidly, as the System wasn’t much one for costs. It only worried about who had the greatest strength.
But that was a thought for another time, as Randidly shot forward towards the pistol, his hand stretching out for it.
Rather than hearing, Randidly felt the tremor and then the puff of air as Cyndra accelerated almost as fast as he did while using the Skill, aiming to catch up to him in his chase of the pistol. They formed a triangle as well, and even though Randidly’s leg was slightly shorter to catch up to the pistol, she had reacted quickly and was just as fast.
Very quickly, Randidly calculated the distances and speed in his head, his senses stretched to their max. Even with all of his boosts, this pure wall of Stats… he was abruptly reminded of going into that dreamspace with Aemont, and seeing that final monster, the one that was so far beyond Aemont’s Stats that it was almost comical, and still he succeeded.
All the while, those eight probes rushed towards him, hungry and violent. Those new Aether shapes would just have to hold.
Twisting around, Randidly raised his spear into a javelin throw. The twist lost him a lot of speed, but it wasn’t so much that Cyndra caught up with him immediately. As he threw the spear, their eyes met, and this time, there was a spark of emotion there, a wariness. But Randidly ignored it, and tossed the weapon, earning him a bit of speed back. And at the same time, he activated Breath of the Spear Phantom.
The reason he hadn’t used it earlier was that he was effectively pitting the Strength of her lungs against his own, with a little boost from his Willpower, and the Skill Levels. He didn’t have many Skill Levels, at least nowhere near the value needed to bridge the gap in their Strengths, so he could only gamble on Willpower.
Cyndra didn’t immediately notice the activation of the Skill, and just smashed the spear to the side. She was unharmed, but she was slowed, and couldn’t avoid the half second of floating before her feet touched the ground, enabling her to launch herself forward again at high speeds.
At that moment, Randidly landed and twisted, shooting the bullet. Two remaining bullets, Randidly reminded himself, wincing somewhat. When he had grabbed the gun, 6 of the probes had returned, only two caught in the blast. And again, he swayed on his feet, this time his vision flashing. Luckily, however, Cyndra still didn’t notice the Skill, and just rushed towards him again.
Randidly’s emerald eyes flashed. Time to take some risks.
While her guard was still wide, adjusting her grip, Randidly used Phantom Half Step several times very quickly, moving towards her. Her arms were open, and Randidly suddenly appeared within them. Immediately, Cyndra’s gaze sharpened, but she couldn’t adjust her forward momentum, and he was already within her guard.
With not much else to do, Randidly just raised his fist and punched at her throat.
The impact was enough that he felt the bones in his hand crack, solely on account of the momentum. Randidly was sent careening backward, while Cyndra stuttered to a stop, reaching up to hold her throat, tearing from the pain. Which was, of course, the moment where she discovered the effect of Randidly’s Skill and the Creature began to talk about quite another matter.
“Oh…? You actually dare send bits of your Soul Skill into mine? Are you a fool?” The Creature said, its voice mocking. “Heh… you think this piteously amount of meaning will make a difference? Perhaps eventually, but… how many more bullets does that gun have? How much longer can you hold-”
But then the Creature turned and glanced at Cyndra, realizing its minion’s plight. Cyndra was gagging soundlessly, holding her throat. Randidly could tell that even through the haze of the Creature’s control, Cyndra was filled with fear at this strange state she found herself, because her attempts to move her lungs were haphazard at best, more trembling than any concerted effort.
It was a testament to her Strength that even so, Randidly was barely managing to keep the Skill active.
“Tsk, foolish child.” The Creature said. With an elegant motion, it pointed towards Cyndra. Immediately, the panic in her eyes was snuffed out, as an adult would pinch the end of a stubborn candle with calloused fingers. Immediately Randidly felt the pressure he had against him double, and then triple, and the spell was broken, both of them gasping huge gulps of air.
There was also a terrible headache that came along with the failing of the Skill, which would have Randidly wincing. The six probes just floated around him, swimming lazily through the Aether he was producing. He was happy to see that the new variety had slowed them down, but then he felt his heart sink as he noticed the probes were quickening in their movements; it seemed that the Creature could learn quickly, as well.
“I believe this game is all played out,” The Creature announced, walking towards him. “Look.”
And abruptly, Randidly sensed 25 probes, moving methodically towards him, cutting through his Aether.
“My main body has finished with its previous task,” The Creature said, flashing Lyra’s smile. “And now you have the pleasure of being the subject of my full attention. Any last tricks, any sudden miracles? If not… then, however could you have hoped to win against the Calamity? I am just one being… the Calamity is the weight of history. It possesses every Skill that was powerful enough to wound it since time immemorial. And yet you, in your pride, think you have even the smallest chance? You are nothing to it.”
Shrugging, Randidly said nothing in response. Instead, he spoke inwardly.
Ready. Came Lucretia’s confident reply.
Have him do it.
Then Randidly raised a single hand, making a gun, he pointed it at the Creature.
“Bang,” He said, miming the recoil from the gun. Which was mostly play, because at his level of Strength, how powerful would the gun have to be for him to lose his grip?
The Creature blinked, and then laughed, seemingly amused. Immediately, Randidly remembered that it had spent quite a bit of time with Lyra, and recognized this habit, that Randidly remembered from their early time together. When it was all harmless fighting. When they had a warm connection to each other.
“Did you really think nostalgia was a weapon you could marshall against me?” The Creature asked, apparently tracking with Randidly’s thoughts pretty well. But when she opened her mouth to continue, she paused, looking down at her chest. There was a flash of light there. Then, the Creature puffed out of existence.
Do it, the order came, and Tziech looked up from the grim task of defending the Thief as she poisoned this land. After a time, mechanical crows the size of a Spriggit youth, about half a meter long, came and began harrying them. They were weak, however, but they approached exponentially. By now, millions seemed to be flying towards them, their wing beats shaking the sky.
He approached the pouch on the ground and unwrapped it. Then he remembered the warning from the Progenitor’s mouth and grabbed the Thief.
He said, “Wait a few seconds and come back through. Grab the lights.” Then he shoved her into the pillar of crimson light, receiving a yelp in return.
Then, cool as a cucumber, he drew a match and dropped it on the packet of powder, the crystals sparkling up at him. As the match fell, he remembered the words when it was given to him.
The Progenitor has worked tirelessly these past few days to reach enough strength to bless you with a single gram of this. She had said. Treat it carefully. It is called Tellumurite, and to the Creature, it should be poison.
The match hit the powder and flame, sparking it. The heat caught on the ambient energy in the air, and all of his world became fire and pain.
After the Creature had disappeared, Randidly wasted no time in turning to Cyndra, who seemed stunned. The gambit took time and relied upon the denizens of his Soul Skill, but it was the only way that Randidly and Lucretia could figure out to strike a blow that would actually stick. The portal between the Soul Skills was the first time they could actually find a part of the Creature, and they intended to mine it for as much information as possible.
It might have been safer to immediately ignite the Tellumurite when the people were inside of the Creature’s Soul Skill, but Randidly also wanted to know if meaning from the spear would be an effective weapon. And if they had time, they should test it. Randidly doubted that this would be a permanent setback, but he intended to make it one that hurt.
Lastly, Randidly knew what would happen to the person who activated the Tellumurite. For that reason, for the life of one of his little soul children, he wanted to exhaust the other avenues before utilizing it.
As Randidly raised his spear, however, her eyes sharpened, and she took a fighting stance, glaring at him. What made him wince, however, was that she now exuded a killing intent that was a hundred times sharper than before. No longer was he facing an overpowered puppet, he was facing Cyndra, a woman who had kept her people safe for generations, and Randidly wasn’t sure he would normally be able to face her down.
But, alas, she still possessed the body of a puppet and all the weaknesses that entailed.
“Although I can no longer feel its presence, I will still kill you. My people owe it a great debt. With your death, that debt will be paid,” Cyndra informed him shortly, her eyes narrowed. Below them, there was a dull rumble in the ground, and both of them paused, wondering what this new development was. But then it faded, and their attention turned back to each other.
When she moved, however, Randidly spoke, and she stopped dead.
Randidly had come to one conclusion based on his use of the Breath of the Spear Phantom; based on how well it worked, his Willpower must be much, much higher than hers. It also explained where all the extra Stats Cyndra had in Strength came from. Resistance was her only mental defense.
However, as long as the Creature was there, Randidly wasn’t willing to attempt it. If he ran up against her Willpower… well, Randidly had no delusions about how that would end.
Plus, it made sense, as one under the control of the Creature, it would keep Cyndra’s Willpower low.
When Cyndra struggled to straighten, her eyes foggy, Randidly hit her with Erode Meaning again, gritting his teeth. He was nowhere near his top form, weakened from producing so much Aether and the earlier backlash from Breath of the Spear Phantom. So this time, he followed it up with old-fashioned violence.
His roots brought his spear back to him, and be began lopping off her limbs, hitting her with Erode Meaning when her struggles were too effective, until she stilled underneath him, her blood pooling.
Randidly had gained a Level, he noticed, but he just felt tired.
Do we have-
Someone went in to see what they can find, Lucretia replied. Randidly nodded warily.
Then he swore, as the rumbling from below came back, louder this time, dust falling from the roof of the arena. “What the fuck is that?!?”
Lucretia was silent for a few seconds and then said, I have a bad feeling.
Well… Lucretia continued. That we are about to discover what most of the Creature’s attention was on during our fight.
Then the floor exploded upwards underneath Randidly.