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Rolling to the side, Randidly managed to get out of the way and then Empowered his hands and pushed off the ground, throwing himself almost instantly up to his feet.

The paw smashed to the ground, leaving a huge crack in the earth, and unfortunately Randidly was still too dizzy to recover completely after leaping upwards, and could only fall back as the shockwave sent him staggering.

Gritting his teeth, Randidly forced his trembling hands to still just as another paw swipe came ripping passed. This time, he wasn’t quick enough, and the huge claws ripped through his shirt, leaving the flesh of his left shoulder in tatters.

A notification came up that his health had dipped below 20%, but Randidly couldn’t even focus on it, his eyes narrowing to view his current enemy. Although the sphinx had taken the initiative, now that he really looked, Randidly could tell that it too was slightly off from using that spell.

It hissed at his close viewing, spitting a fireball directly at his face. Randidly rolled again, his sharp eyes picking up the small form that slipped out of his pocket in the roll. Reflexively, he reached out and grabbed it, his quick fingers wrapped around the small, completely nurtured soul seed.

Fertile soil, huh…?

Recovering his spear, Randidly had a crazy idea. As the sphinx opened its mouth again to shoot another fireball, Randidly threw the small seed towards its mouth. The passage of even the small seed was enough to throw off the flow of mana for the spell, and once more the fire energy dispersed.

Randidly followed this up with a Hasted and Empowered Phantom Thrust, his spear tip hitting the seed midair and driving it forward, once more ripping into the wound on the roof of the sphinx’s mouth.

Eyes burning, Randidly didn’t just withdraw the spear this time, but drove it deeper, ripping upward through the jaw and stabbing towards the skull, hoping he hit something vital.

The sphinx began to tremble, mewing strangely, and Randidly took that time to plant his feet and shove the spear forward, even deeper, cracking against something with a wet thump.

Just when he thought the sphinx would collapse, its mouth snapped shut, snapping the spear into pieces. As Randidly was sent stumbling backwards, it raised its head and howled, and Randidly could see that half of his spear was still sunk deeply into the roof of its mouth.

Spitting out blood from his mouth, Randidly dropped the remnants of the spear and withdrew several potions, hurriedly raising himself back up to full strength. He now regretted turning down Daniel’s offer of a spear from the weapons shop. A spare spear would come in handy right now.

Apparently realizing that it couldn’t do anything about the pain right now, the sphinx turned its red-rimmed eyes on Randidly. Then it charged, all pretense of playing gone, just an extremely large, angry monster.

It was met by a cloud of pestilence to the face, blinding it, but barely slowing it at all. While it couldn’t see, Randidly had Spearing Roots rip into it at a sideways angle, aiming mostly for the tendons of its legs, seeing several satisfyingly deep gashes result.

Leaping to the side, Randidly felt a hint of confidence that this was in the bag.

That was when it twisted midair and leaped after him, its eyes glowing golden, the light burning through the vicious insects, and the huge body smashed into Randidly, knocking the wind out of him. The two of them crashed into the ground, and he felt his ribs scream in protest.

Although wounded, the Sphinx leered down at Randidly, its breath hot and hungry.

“Now, now, now wha-”

Using Root Manipulation, Randidly grabbed the sphinx’s feet and dragged it back, off of his body. The sphinx turned to face the roots, kicking and ripping himself free, and turned back to Randidly, only to be met with a Roundhouse Kick to the face.

It wasn’t enough to do any damage, but it fell back, slightly stunned.

In that moment, Randidly poured all his mana into Spearing Roots again, several sharp spears ripping upward into the earlier holes, digging deeper into the torso of the creature, ripping through its stomach and puncturing holes in its lungs.

With a high pitched screech, the air once more began to hum, then distort, and Randidly had to grit his teeth to stay standing.

The back of his head throbbed, and the strange pain in the air seemed to be intensifying. Blackness ate at the corner of his vision, and he stumbled forward, his knees weak.

This….!

Not like this….!

After all this time… all this struggle… was he going to let it end like this….?

Biting his lip to keep himself conscious, Randidly cracked his knuckles and swayed slowly closer to the Sphinx. Even if he had to rip out its spine by hand, and-

And at that moment, the spell broke, the sphinx collapsing, rolling onto its back and scratching at its own face.

Randidly blinked several times. A long, thorny bramble was sticking out of the Sphinx’s eyeball, blood spurting everywhere. And as soon as he saw it, he felt a strange connection to it. He knew that this was hatched from his soul seed.

Fertile soil indeed.

While it was again distracted, Randidly drank more mana potions and speared it with roots again and again, and again, making sure to rip the muscles of its legs to shreds, and then only afterwards attack towards its necessary organs.

When he was close to running out of mana, he drank a mana potion, fueling a constant barrage of Spearing Roots, flaying the flesh of the Sphinx from its bones.

After several brutal spells, covering the nearby ground with gore, the sphinx turned to Randidly, looking ridiculous, its mouth propped open by the spear, its left eye currently being popped and drawn back within its body by a thorn creature. It was more zombie than sphinx at this point.

“I’ll… k-k-kill you…” It whispered, and then it spat something, infinitely faster than a fireball. Then it vomited up a gallon of blood and collapsed. Notifications sprang into existence around him, but-

Randidly had barely enough time to twitch before the impact slammed against him, spinning him around. He looked uncomprehendingly down, only to find a long, thin, pink thing, like a giant leech, sticking out of his body. The weird part was that the thing was covered in strange markings.

Blinking, Randidly realized he recognized it; it was the sphinx’s tongue.

Just as he thought that, the thing quivered, and then started wiggling, working itself deeper into his flesh with a malicious intensity. Swearing, Randidly reached over with his other arm and tried to get a grip on the thing, but the reaching arm was the arm that had been struck by the sphinx’s claws. The arm at first spasmed, and did not listen, and only after he narrowed his eyes and slowly worked his will against the failing flesh did he get the hand to move where he wanted it to.

His fingers were wet with blood, and by the time he grabbed at it, his fingers slipped off and the wiggling pink thing vanished into his shoulder. Almost non comprehending, Randidly looked down at the gaping hole in his arm that it had left by its passage.

He could feel its alien presence in his body, and a horrible sense of wrongness spread out. It began to move, working its way towards his chest.

Randidly began to sweat. Removing it from him would be…

But as he considered the problem, a small vine like bramble crawled out of sphinx’s body, hurrying over towards Randidly. He could sense it strangely, he realized, and he could feel it, what it was thinking, just barely. Worry radiated out from it. It seemed to understand something was wrong.

Looking down at the small vine thing, only about a foot long, several thorn covered tentacles, Randidly felt oddly touched. Then the tongue moved deeper, into his chest, and he grimaced. Then he had another crazy idea.

“Crawl in. Find it and stop it. Go on,” Randidly encouraged, offering the open wound the tongue had used to climb into his body, pulling the gory hole open with his free hand. The thing rolled around on the ground, and confusion radiating off of it.

Grimacing, Randidly thought, with all the force he could muster, picturing what he wanted, and projected that thought towards the vine thing. Instantly, it understood, and it climbed into the wound, wriggling after the first interloper.

Honestly, the vine creature was even more painful than the tongue, leaving huge gouges in his flesh as it moved. Randidly drank his last health potion, keeping his health at safe levels, and he felt the vine reach the tongue, just in his upper torso. The vine wrapped around it, its thorns digging into the struggling tongue.

He sensed from the vine’s projected impressions that it was having difficulties, but Randidly could only smile grimly; at least he had bought some time.

He raised his head and looked at the sky. The sun was rising. Hopefully the village had fared well in his absence during the monster horde. But Randidly assumed they would be fine. The enemies they faced might be numerous, but they were low leveled. It was a course designed to fatten people, so that the butcher could come and reap them.

Randidly spared the sphinx a glance, then sat down and began to brew health potions, doing his best to ignore the agonizing pain caused by the constant struggle within his chest. Little did Shal know, but his training, all of it, even this part, the painful, high stress potion making, would become relevant in the future.

When he had finished, he walked over the sphinx and placed it into a larger spatial storage ring that he had Daniel buy for these hunts. Then he turned and began to trudge home, not daring to move too fast, lest the tongue slip free and rip through his heart and lungs.

Although his stats had improved, Randidly was under no impression that this was something he could survive.

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