Helen’s eyes snapped open.
Congratulations! You have created the Skill “Blood Walker, Master of Tides ® Lvl 1”! Warning, energy will be taken from your body. This may result in sickness and death.
Blood Walker, Master of Tides ®: Using your inherent abilities as the soul of the Bloodfin Reaper, you sense the currents in the surrounding area. The range of this ability increases with Skill Level. With simple movements of your body, it is possible to affect and empower currents in the surrounding area. Effect increases with Skill Level. You sense the connections between the myriad currents and develop an intuition as to their uses and influences. Effect increases with Skill Level.
Once, Helen had asked Randidly how the fuck he managed to control three or four root avatars, use spells, and also fight with his physical body. After laughing, he confessed that he just had a monstrous amount of Control. Which wasn’t something Helen could ever hope to possess. But repeated losing her Domain made her extremely frustrated. The problem was she couldn't gather the image to create it while moving at the same time. It took a little extra oomph to assemble the thing. This, she assumed, was a good sign for the Domain’s strength. But not for her own survivability.
Such was her frustrated that she had fixated on it. And now the world answered.
Skarch was about to arrive and Helen raised her spear. The black flames of rage that she had kept cage roared in triumph as they were unleashed. Their flickering forms stretched and danced. Helen took a step forward and met Skarch at the edge of her Tides of Blood Domain.
“Decimate,” Helen hissed as her spear slashed forward.
“Simple Thrust,” Came the response filled with tightly controlled fury.
To Helen’s relief, she was blown backward by the force, but only a few meters. In fact, right back into her Tides of Blood Domain.
Congratulations! Your Skill Blood Walker, Master of Tides has become Level 2!
Congratulations! Your Skill Blood Walker, Master of Tides has become Level 3!
Congratulations! Your Skill Domain: Tides of Blood has become Level 79!
Congratulations! Your Skill Blood Walker, Master of Tides has become Level 4!
Helen began to ignore the notifications as the Domain closed up behind Skarch. Luckily the recovery speed was noticeably increasing. The other woman also seemed somewhat surprised that her attacks had such a muted advantage over Helen, and Skrach’s brows furrowed. But she slashed and Helen had to scamper to the side to avoid the fissure that opened up in the Tides of Blood Domain.
Skarch eyed the trembling domain that slowly healed with visible annoyance. Then her eyes locked onto Helen. “This is how you choose to fight?”
It was a simple question, Helen reasoned with herself. There was no reason to get pissed off about it. This was a tournament. Best to keep it professional.
Helen spat a globe of blood onto the ground and rushed toward Skarch. The other woman grinned and raised her spear.
“Simple Overhand Blow-”
But Helen cut her off. “Maw of the Hellfin.”
Helen danced to the side as a giant, bloody specter dug its teeth into Skarch’s back. Or at least attempted to. Skarch’s eyes flashed. The butt of her spear ripped backward and shattered the Maw. Behind it, the Domain also collapsed in a large cone. The currents of the Tides of Blood Domain attempted to heal it, but Skarch twisted and thrust her spear toward Helen.
With two large chunks ripped out of it, the Domain shuddered and collapsed.
“Burst of Speed,” Helen whispered. A huge amount of her remaining Stamina disappeared, but she gracefully ducked under Skarch’s quick blow. Skarch’s eyes widened in shock, but she brought her spear up in time to deflect Helen’s attack. Instantly, Helen brought her Domain back up around them.
“Feeding Frenzy!” The black flames of rage roared with glee and Helen unleashed a fury of blows on Skarch. But Skarch’s expression remained unperturbed. Helen’s flames of rage hissed and spat. Without a flicker of warning from her face, Skarch’s spear began to glow. Just as Skarch’s mouth opened, Helen managed to slash open a shallow cut on Skarch’s forearm.
A wave of force emerging from the spear exploded outward. Helen was sent spinning backward but landed on her feet with a light tap. One thing she had definitely perfected during her fights with Randidly was landing on her feet when she was knocked around. A sad truth. But once more her Domain collapsed as the concussive force ripped through her currents.
Which left Helen with the choice of taking the risk with Skarch’s attack and conjuring the Domain or dodging. The black flames of rage muttered to each other how unfair this was. Helen ignored them. Instead, her mind went to Randidly’s words. Leave no space for regrets.
Her smile was all hard edges and teeth. After all, what was the fun in dodging? She was the Hellfin Reaper. And before her, everything else was prey.
Tides of Blood surrounded them just as Skarch arrived. Helen detected the flash of contempt in her opponent’s eyes. It was shocking, in a way. But Helen supposed that one who lived on pride wouldn’t understand the desperate madness of the underdog.
But at that moment, as the tip of Skarch’s spear flashed forward toward her chest, Helen wondered how Randidly lived like this. Every fight, gambling his life on the edge of his spear. If he failed, he would die. He needed to win, so he did. It was an exhausting life.
Yet, why am I smiling?
Helen could barely block. And this time, it wasn’t just a few meters that she was thrown backward. Such was the force of Skarch’s attack that she was blown out of the arena. Into an area that was completely cleared of her Domain. But Helen’s smile stayed plastered to her face. As she was twisting, she forced the Domain back together with a rumble.
And when the Domain arrived, the currents did too.
With the currents help, she was able to slow herself to the point where she could land on the ground. There were no rules in the tournament about being knocked off the arena, but many conceded the minute they were forced off the large dueling platform. It was a great dishonor to be so inferior that you couldn’t control your body.
When she stood up without an injury, the audiences laughs and boos smashed into her back like a landslide. They expected her to concede. They thought the match over.
Helen calmly walked back to the arena and hopped up. Skarch waited for her with a scowl hung on her face. It was beneath her to strike at one who had been so obviously bested.
“You won’t concede?” A frosty Skarch asked when Helen regained the stage.
“Seriously? Fuck you.” Helen countered with all the wit she could muster. The currents in the air around her twisted and strengthened themselves. They folded back and wove together in a larger system of currents. In those desperate moments, her Skills stretched themselves and became more capable. Grinning wildly, Helen’s eyes grew red as she looked at Skarch’s expression.
She liked and respected Skarch the woman. She was generous and honest.
But Skarch the opponent? Pride dominated her every inch. She was a being created based on the premise that the spear was a dominant force in the world. Randidly fought to win because losing meant death. Skarch represented the people that considered dishonor worse than death. Her family name was worth more than her life.
As if to give example to Helen’s thoughts, Skarch opened her mouth and said. “Have you no pride in your spear? You are a member of the greatest warrior race in existence, and yet you don’t have the self-respect to know when you are bested. Do not bring shame to those brave spear-users of Tellus. Either act like a champion or get out of the way for those who truly deserve that honor.”
“Seriously, fuck you,” Helen spat. But even through the haze of rage, she felt something strange. Her currents… Skarch was doing nothing to part the Domain at the moment, and it felt like Helen could… use her currents to siphon off Skarch’s energy. Her Domain growled hungrily. Was there a portion of her Skill that she missed that allowed her currents to sap another’s strength?
That wouldn’t be a surprise. She was a predator. It made a certain amount of sense that she could grow stronger on her victims.
The black flames of rage were on the same page as Helen. Fuck that.
Does this make me like her…? Helen wondered as she refused to take some of Skarch’s power. More willing to lose than to give up my pride?
But that didn’t seem true. To have principles wasn’t just the purview of beings motivated by pride.
“I don’t need to be you to beat you,” Helen said. And then she launched herself forward. If Skarch wanted to continue to monologue, fine. But for Helen, it was time to fight.
And in fact, Skarch blinked in surprise. “Do you not-”
But then the sound of their spears clashing buried the rest of her words. Skarch growled something else and waved her spear. The Tides of Blood Domain parted, but only partially. And within a second it was back up.
“Feeding Frenzy, Decimate,” Helen’s speed jumped up. Her eyes were fixed on the blood dripping from Skarch’s wrist. “Instincts of the Predator.”
“Simple Block, Simple Counter,” Skarch said through gritted teeth. But every time she tried to strike back, Helen flitted sideways and attacked at an unexpected angle. Skarch brought her spear down and Helen spun to the side and thrust at Skarch’s thigh. Skarch brought her spear up to knock away the thrust and followed up with a thrust of her own. But Helen leaped up over the blow and aimed a kick at Skarch’s head.
Skarch’s strike parted the Tides of Blood Domain, but Helen leaped up to a portion still dominated by blood. Furious, Skarch brought her thrust up into a cut toward Helen’s midsection. Helen grinned and spun midair when she brought a current across her body. Borrowing momentum like this was child’s play. With the extra boost, her thrust blurred outward.
Skarch’s head jerked to the side, but Helen scored a long cut above Skarch’s eye.
“Fine. Let’s make this messy,” Skarch said. Their eyes met even around the shaft of Helen’s spear. “Overdrive.”
Once more, light began to gather around Skarch’s spear. Helen rode a current to land some distance away and warily watched the transformation that was occurring. Strange energy began to emerge from the large runic sigil right below the blade of Skarch’s spear. Of all of the runes that crossed it, that one was the largest. And now it thrummed with power.
Skarch stepped and Helen’s eyes widened as she moved with such speed that she tore a large gash in the Tides of Blood Domain. The force of her passage overwhelmed Helen’s Domain.
“Yield,” Skarch rumbled even as her spear slid toward Helen’s torso.