Even now, Helen found herself somewhat stumbling over how deep and green his eyes were. And when he was staring down over the shaft of a spear at you, the beauty of his eyes was insufficient to show through.
This was a man who had grown accustomed to violence. And Helen loved it.
“Ready?” She asked, wondering how much he had improved since they had last fought. Back then, he was miles ahead of her in every category. But during the war with the Wights, Helen had matured to the point that she no longer recognized herself. Even as the energy of the world fled, and her Level stagnated, she continued to improve her Skills at such a pace that she dare not share the limit of her improvements with her allies.
Only those close to her, like Leyalta, had seen her let loose completely. And that was only in the midst of the most pitched battles. She dare not share that her Skill Levels were nearing two hundred, a domain that few made it to without being able to use the abilities of a Master.
But against Randidly Ghosthound…
“Yes,” He said while staring at her. “Whenever you are ready.”
Oh? You believe that you have the advantage? Fine then, it was time that Helen showed Randidly exactly how capable she was. How much fighting prowess she possessed, how firm her resolve. How capable she would be, say, of taking care of the homestead should there be so formidable a warrior that she would acquiesce to them defending her.
“Then fucking go for it,” Helen hissed, as she rushed forward. Although she wouldn’t use the full force of the killing intent she had developed on the front lines against Randidly, she would make use of the many Skill Levels she had earned. Her Raging Torrent of the Yashwei Skill Set started humming at full bore. She approached using the Deceptive First Bend, which made her footwork blur in the eyes of her enemies. It was enough that some Wights hadn’t even had time to look up before she arrived in front of them.
To her surprise, or perhaps not really, Randidly was already there waiting for her. His moves were simple and blunt, but when he thrust his spear her Battle Instincts Skill screamed that it was dangerous. So she shifted fluidly into the Third Bend: Great Falls. So when he thrust at her, Helen spun and ducked under the blow.
The air vibrated with the force of his passage. Helen grimaced. This… wasn’t the Ghosthound that she remembered. If she didn’t know better… Helen would think that she was facing a pure power spear user. Although, not a very fucking good one.
“Roasted balls,” Helen muttered as she thrust upwards with her spear.
Randidly moved his head to the side, those emerald eyes glowing. If his spear use was somewhat lacking, his body control was astounding. Instantly, she activated the Second Bend just as his left leg kicked out towards her. Helen grunted as she was thrown backward by the force of the kick, but looked up expectantly. She immediately frowned.
She had left a deep gash in the strange grey armor that Randidly wore, but that was it. The Second Bend was just a combat cantrip, but it rarely failed to inflict a wound. So that meant…
The Fourth Bend: Drowning Current.
Helen always wondered what this Skill looked like from someone else’s perspective. But in her eyes, the world began to be covered with what she considered “drag lines”. It seemed to be an amalgamation of momentum and weariness on their bodies. With it, a pretty decent passive boost to her Perception and Agility enabled Helen to slowly reduce her opponents to exhausted wrecks. Perhaps it would be smarter to use the obvious difference in Skill Level to dominate him, but she wanted to demonstrate how much finesse she now possessed.
So she amped up the speed, her spear stabbing to and fro to cut small gashes on his hands and forearms, which were revealed by the armor.
In terms of his ability to use the spear… Helen found herself somewhat disappointed. He was… rusty. It looked like he hadn’t had any true fights in a while. And he thought that he would be able to face her in this condition? Well, she would take great pleasure in teaching him this lesson.
She cut at his shoulder and he turned slightly, but then she swept her spear sideways and drew a gash across his armor. He stepped forward but grunted as she spun the butt of her spear and slammed it into his midsection. All the while, draglines gathered around him.
His attacks were more than powerful; they were fast and deceptive. As Helen spun away from her hit to his stomach, she found a leaping thrust waiting for her. She cleanly slid out of the way with a quick use of the First Bend, but he saw through her move and landed a sharp kick on the shaft of her spear that sent her stumbling.
So much so that she had to utilize the First Bend again to close the distance with him and harry him with a series of stabs to keep the drag lines from dispersing. He cleanly knocked these blows away, and Helen’s brow knit together. She was moving through her Stamina pool more quickly than she would like, and…
He was getting faster.
She supposed it made sense, as she had said, he was rusty. But it couldn’t be so simple of catching back up in a single bout, could it? It had been about 20 seconds!
So Helen upped the tempo. Furious Assault increased her Agility even further, and also added a small bit of range to her attacks that added a piercing surprise for her enemies. But as she started attacking in earnest, Randidly began moving more quickly. Somehow, the edges of him seemed to be blurry and grey, making Helen want to swear and throw up her hands.
This entire time, he hadn’t been using his Spear Phantom moves?!
But now, Helen began to make use of her wide range of combat experience to cut corners. He was statistically stronger and faster, but she would NOT fucking roll over and lose to this schmuck who probably had barely trained in the past half year.
Slash, stab, advance. She pushed and pushed, her spear skidding off Randidly’s armor with a reassuring regularity. It was even better because the extra inch of force clearly was giving him some trouble. He was frowning at her, those emeralds all scrunched up as they considered her.
What did he see? She wondered.
She swept his legs but he didn’t fall like she had planned. Instead, thin vines came out of the ground the seized his legs and pulled them back to the ground. She was caught so much by surprise that when he counter-attacked, she didn’t dodge in time.
The force of the blow dislocated her shoulder.
Hissing, Helen leaped backward and popped the shoulder back into place. It was her right, the non-dominant hand, so it wouldn’t affect her overmuch. But that power of his…
“Why aren’t you using spells?” Helen asked sharply, feeling the heat rising in her chest. “You are a Spell Spear, aren’t you? Act like one.”
Randidly gave her a somewhat helpless look. “I… this is a contest of spear-”
“Fuck you,” Helen spat out, and the heat was truly on her now. Her Berserker’s Blood was beginning to activate, which was not what she would have wanted five minutes ago when the fight started. But it had become obvious that he was taking it easy on her as if this was a game. The spear was a tool to live and die by. When you fought, you gave it your all.
Those who didn’t were a disgrace to the weapon, and deserved what was coming to them.
“Sir, I really think,” Leyalta began, his jowls quivering, but Helen had already moved. This time, when she used the First Bend to advance towards Randidly, she didn’t bother to conserve Stamina. While her Berserker’s Blood was active, her regeneration was almost tripled, which would cover for any overuse.
Plus, with the Strength boost she obtained from that Skill, she could fight against his superior Strength more directly. She wouldn’t ever meet his clashes directly, but now she could deflect them while advancing.
Two thrusts whistled past her torso. She barely even swayed to avoid them, and one of the attacks left a large gash. The pain was a bright crimson encouragement, and Helen let loose with every bit of pent-up aggression she had held in her chest after he had left without even saying anything to her.
Her spear blurred and bent under the force of her attacks. She battered his defense, forcing him to retreat to avoid her stabs. When he prepared a counter-attack, she used the Third Bend to avoid it completely and appear in his blind spot. Her attacks then were short and powerful. Generally, it left him off balance and frustrated, which made the fury in Helen’s chest gleeful.
All the while, more and more drag lines were emerging on his body, holding him back, slowing him down. And yet…
Yet he was getting faster.
His counter-attacks were much, much sharper than they had been at the beginning of the spar. Abruptly, the part of Helen’s brain that wasn’t overcome with the heat of the Berserker’s Rage realized that it wasn’t that he hadn’t practiced with the spear in a long time… it was just that he hadn’t practiced fighting against other spear users much. Even without relying on her sharpest images, it was her method of attacking that had given him pause.
His attacks weren’t rusty, his sense of tempo against a spear user was just nonexistent. In a way, Helen related. A lot of fighters she had faced qualifying for this version of the under Level 25 tourney were fresh off the frontline and had similar handicaps. They had simply fought so many Wights that they had lost touch with clashing against fellow spear users.
And as she thought that, the fight fell out of Helen. Randidly sensed it almost immediately, and his spear halted midair in its path to cut into her midsection.
“I missed you,” Helen said with a sigh.
After a pause, Randidly nodded. “I… missed you too. How was… the war?”
Helen opened her mouth to say something smart but then paused. She looked at him again. She lowered her spear further. “...you… you really don’t know?”
Randidly shook his head.
Helen’s face collapsed into a grimace. She made a sharp gesture, and Leyalta began to break the camp they had made in the forest by the teleportation Village near Qtal. “We’ve lost. Our Spearsource was captured by the Wights through treachery. If our heroes don’t recapture it…”
She trailed off. She didn’t want to say it. That they would lose their Paths and Classes. They would become monsters, without a true path forward, even with a spear in hand.
Randidly just blinked at her.