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A note from puddles4263

3/7

Randidly absolutely detested enemies with great Endurance. The three-headed ogre, for example. Such was that beast’s defense that all of Randidly’s spells combined, and a Mana pool of 9000, could only burn away the thing’s legs to the thighs. Perhaps with more focus that damage would be enough to kill the thing, but Randidly wasn’t so sure. Besides, it wouldn’t have been nearly as easy to damage if Randidly had attacked its chest cavity, for instance.

Enemies of that sort simply… ignored most damage. The spells landed, but the monsters continued on without showing much damage. Generally, these enemies had powerful but slow attacks, so they were less of a constant threat, but they were difficult to kill. Especially for Randidly, when his build was so general.

But enemies who relied on speed and poise? Randidly loved those.

With her exosuit glowing golden, Father Foster spun away from Randidly’s Talon Strike, opening up some space to fire her lightning bolts at him. Randidly dodged to the side, but he had grown to realize that there was a small homing function on them. As long as he was only a few inches to either side, the bolt would curve.

Obnoxious, but like all attacks from the quick enemies, Randidly was able to weather this with relatively few ill effects. There was a numbness, but it did not linger.

Randidly advanced towards Father Foster, who considered Randidly with narrowed eyes. She took another few steps backward and then lashed out with her left arm. The attachment on it shifted into something like a lightsaber, and it sizzled past Randidly’s arm. Heedless, Randidly continued forward, using a Roundhouse Kick to catch Father Foster as she tried to recover from the slash.

Gritting her teeth, Father Foster pushed the suit to its next level. The golden light coming from the suit shifted and turned sky blue. The half metal, half human body blurred, and Randidly was blown away as he activated the Wild Phantom’s Embrace. It was a version of Spear Phantom’s Embrace had been altered to suit Randidly much more specifically. The main change was that it was a less versatile Skill; when Randidly used it, he could not dodge afterward. It was entirely focused towards that Counter.

Crack!

Father Foster stumbled backward, the ground beneath her feet shattering as Randidly hit her with a Talon Strike. Just as the suit was falling back down towards gold, she revved it again, and the suit began to hum with blue light. She practically teleported behind him and Randidly was forced to raise both arms to block the enhanced ax kick she aimed at him.

All the while, even while Randidly was high on the thrill of fighting an opponent who reminded him distantly of sparring against Azriel all those months ago, he was in a state of partial shock.

Because of what Father Foster had said. Because of what it had meant. Because… because if what Father Foster was saying was true, Randidly had wasted weeks.

Wasted was perhaps a strong word, but...

Father Foster opened up some distance between them, her suit shifting back to gold. It was clear that she was not maintaining the superior blue state, where she could rival Randidly in speed and strength. It was unclear to the part of Randidly that was fighting whether this was a feint to draw him in or a physical limitation. Honestly, Randidly was annoyed he didn’t spend more time studying exosuits. In his mind, his power would rise too quickly for it to be worth it. But as he was now fighting against an exosuit that neared him in power… it might be worth some investigation.

Still, Randidly was done playing around. He had dueled Father Foster for almost two minutes now, and Dinesh’s messages were becoming increasingly pointed. More enemies continued to come. It was time to end this.

But…

Father Foster was suggesting that the Creature in this Zone had been killed. The strange insectoid that possessed a tangible whiff of the Creature’s Aether seemed to agree. But… but how…?

Early on in the fight, Father Foster had been talkative. But as time went on, she became increasingly grim. So Randidly took it upon himself to start the conversation again.

“You truly killed the Creature?” Randidly asked. He couldn’t help himself. He paused in his attack, staring at Father Foster.

The middle-aged woman was panting. Her eyes were darting around. She eyed the door, then the cylinder, then him. Without speaking, her suits sound changed. The humming became more chaotic, while the suit shifted to blue. Then as Randidly watched, the arm attachments continued further, becoming molten red.

Fine then, time to end this.

The Lava Golem rushed forward towards Father Foster. It hadn’t exactly been hidden during their brief contest, but it hadn’t been moving either. But Father Foster ignored it, raising her arms and pointing them both at Randidly. For a second there was nothing. Then a spark crossed between the two arms.

Immediately, Randidly used Phantom Half-Step on the Lava Golem and pulled himself to the side. Light flashed from Father Foster’s arms, so bright that Randidly was momentarily blinded. At that moment, the Lava Golem’s sense of touch came in very useful. It continued to charge and smashed Father Foster in her side.

The light faltered, then winked out. The Lava Golem pressed its body against Father Foster, holding her struggling limbs down as the metal melted. Soon, the suit twitched and faltered, and then the engines driving it failed as the hardware gave way beneath the threat of heat.

All the while, what Randidly was most surprised about was that Father Foster didn’t speak.

It was a strange silence then, as Randidly walked over towards Father Foster’s form. The Lava Golem continued to lay on top of her, melting through the metal of the exosuit-

Randidly blinked. Her limbs-

“I am a tragically small thing. Does it make you disappointed?” Father Foster remarked, a bitter smile on her face.

Randidly just stared down at her, increasingly numb. This… this couldn’t be the individual who defeated the Creature, correct…?

“More metal than flesh,” Randidly said, surprised with how cold and even his voice was.

“Killing me means nothing.” Father Foster spat. “I am but a cog, a seed. Others… others will take up my….”

Her eyes widened, and for the first time, Father Foster seemed truly upset. And then she died as the machines in the exosuit that were keeping her alive failed. Spit oozed out of the corner her mouth and her eyes went blank.

Randidly stepped back. He turned and looked around. The Lava Golem straightened. His eyes narrowed, because behind him was the cylinder, with a small chunk missing were that strange concentrated plasma attack had struck. Cracks slowly spread upwards through the contraption, and Aether was pouring out of the hole into the room. The terminals in the powerplant began to flash red, warning of what was to come.

Randidly swore quietly. One last spiteful move, Father Foster freed the Creature from this… thing…? Well, at least Randidly could put his worries to rest. He wasn’t as prepared as he would have liked, but if the Creature came now, at least he wasn’t injured.

Lucretia?

Ready. I have… I have a weapon prepared. Just one, but it should be enough.

Then we strike first.

Randidly activated the Spear Advances, Ash Trails. Even without a spear, he felt the image of a spearhead infuse his movement. His body blurred as he charged at the cracking cylinder. He raised his hands, and the air pressed against him in an iron wall. And then, abruptly, he thrust a hand forward in a Talon Strike, and the air shattered.

A sonic boom echoed outwards, and Randidly crashed into the cylinder. His Aether Skills were activating at full bore, both splitting the wild Aether in front of him apart and sensing what was inside the area. After the cylinder broke, there was only the tiniest fraction of a second for Randidly to feel everything. Aether smashed outwards like a physical force, slowing his advance immediately.

It tore at his skin, the raw energy so thick that it began to burn at him. His Skills, those he was using, began to flicker as the raw Aether ate at them and their power. And floating at the center, there was a core of power, glowing with malicious glee. He could almost feel the Creature’s delight as it spread its baleful wings of power.

Now!

The attack was just a long knife of Aether. But Randidly knew that Lucretia had been working tirelessly on this. Day after day it had been tempered and strengthen. There was not a day these past 8 months that Lucretia had not been working on this knife, designed for this one moment.

She had even added a drop of energy from Randidly’s most distrustful Skill, Touch from Beyond.

And when it was released, it cut through everything and severed the Aether connection at the core of that figure in the cylinder.

A second later, there was an explosion.

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puddles4263

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