Daniel watched calmly as all of the final battle on the arena unfolded. He carefully noted every skill that the Ghosthound used, doing his best to mark down their effects based upon observation. From there, he tried to extrapolate information about stats.
Ultimately, he gave up; the Ghosthound simply had too many skills and stat boosts from places to keep track of all of their influences. There were simply too many variables to account for them all.
“Do you think we can really win against him?” Daniel asked, setting his notebook to the side.
Mrs. Hamilton smiled at him, amused. “Don’t be so caught up in his pace and past accomplishments. Just look. What is happening?”
Daniel looked, seeing the rapid march of the squads as they rushed towards the Ghosthound’s form, as he slowly stood. His breathing was even, but his eyes were narrow, scanning the oncoming wave of bodies. As they approached, he simply allowed them to come, making no move to dodge, breathing slowly.
When they arrived, they pressed forward, shields raised. The Ghosthound’s pole dipped low, smashing against the shins of one man, who stumbled briefly. That man was immediately met with a roundhouse kick, which knocked him backwards, and the Ghosthound was able to step forward into the small gap, lashing out with his pole. The squad parted, flowing around him, and Paolo and Kayle rushed forward, both attacking at the same time, with a cooperation that surprised Daniel.
The Ghosthound simply grimaced, his spear blurring to knock away every attack that came his way. Seeing their chance, the squad members surged closer.
Suddenly, it seemed like the flurry of attacks coming from all directions was too much for him, and the Ghosthound suddenly let an attack through. The woman’s eyes gleamed, as she slashed downwards. Unfortunately, the Ghosthound twisted, and the blow was shallow.
His follow up was not.
His punch took her in the chest, cracking her centipede shell armor. Gasping, she fell to her knees, blood dripping from her lips. The Ghosthound hopped lightly over her, then grabbed her and threw her out of the arena. Two other squad members rushed forward, roaring, but the Ghosthound’s pole cracked them both in the head, after they left the safety of their superior numbers to attack him.
Those two, too, were thrown out, and the Ghosthound calmly turned to regard the remaining group. He sported several small cuts, and blood slowly ran down from his ribs and shoulder. The Ghosthound flexed his bare feet and grinned, as if asking them if this was all they had.
Donny’s voice echoed out, and the squad rumbled forward, rushing towards the Ghosthound once more.
“I see… Donny ordering the attack, but neither he, Dozer, nor Decklan are participating,” Daniel said, frowning. “Of the most powerful, only Kayle and Paolo are fighting, and they are only doing so passively, harrying him. Why are they letting him defeat the squad members like this?”
Mrs. Hamilton just smiled, shaking her head. “Because they want to win. Randidly can beat the squad members, but it costs him Stamina. And without Donny committing, Randidly cannot strike a blow to eliminate them all at once.”
“So it’s going to continue like this…?”
“Likely no. the Ghosthound is not one you can corner so easily, not even with our highest trained squad members. If we are going to defeat the Ghosthound… we need a little more..”
They both turned their gazes back to the arena, not daring to look away.
Randidly frowned. Donny certainly had gotten callous. He could rip through these fodder all night, but it would deplete his already sorry stores of mana. It would be much easier if the fight with the main force happened while he had stamina to spare, but it appears they were content to wait him out.
Fine, he supposed it was time to bring the fight to them.
As the front tanks marched forward, Randidly abruptly raced to meet them, pole raised. He really missed his Spine-Spear, both for its size, strength bonus, and blade, but he supposed this pole was a much better weapon for insuring there were no casualties. He should have at least put a blade on this weapon… But whining about it now would do no good. With just a bare stick of wood, he planted his feet, activated Haste, Empower, Heavy Blow, Mana Strengthening, and Sweep, and smashed forward with his pole, striking the front line in a broad blow, aiming to hit as many as possible.
Four people were knocked over, smashed to the side by the force of the blow, knocked off their feet. Although their stats might be much higher, most people hadn’t realized that their superior physical strength did nothing to increase their weight. It was quite easy to knock them up and helplessly away if they didn’t prepare for it. Randidly planted his feet and was ready to rush forward, but to his surprise, a figure stepped up in front of him, weapon raised. It was the dark skinned young man with the iron ball for a weapon that had rushed him earlier, at the beginning of the fight..
A Phantom Thrust blurred outward, striking the man in the nose. The cartilage of his nose shattered, blood spurting outward, and Randidly moved to step past him.
To Randidly’s surprise, a hand settled on his arm, gripping him tightly.
Randidly turned, eyes narrowing, to find that the iron-ball man had managed to latch onto him as he fell, holding desperately onto him. Another Sweep crushed the man into the ground, loosening his grip. But Randidly didn’t have the time, nor the stamina for this.
Most of the people knocked to the side were being healed, and several other squad members were moving closer. Worst of all, a tingling on Randidly’s neck warned him that Decklan was finally making his move.
Tsking lightly to himself, Randidly spoke. “Agony.”
The pain smashed downwards around him, and most people hesitated slightly, but not Decklan. His was a curved smile and blade, and he ripped closer, moving so quickly that Randidly wasn’t sure whether he could have kept up with him without a full stamina and mana pool.
But in this case, he didn’t need to.
He sparingly use a pinch of mana, using Root Manipulation to loop around an unsuspecting Decklan’s foot. The Killer responded well, instantly twisting, and pulling away, but Randidly already had a Phantom Thrust aiming for his chest.
“Righteous Bonds!” Donny yelled, and strange golden runes appeared in the air around Decklan. Ignoring it, Randidly struck with all the force he could muster, aiming to shatter several ribs. But although Decklan grunted and was thrown back, he didn’t appear to suffer any lasting damage.
A gasp did echo out behind him, and Randidly turned to see Donny covered in those same golden runes, clutching his chest.
‘Some sort of damage sharing, huh…?’ Randidly wondered idly. ‘Annoying.’
Abruptly, Randidly decided to try something strange.
Dropping Agony, Randidly stood casually, spinning his pole with the Raid Squad surrounding him. His grin was long and slow.
Tykes smashed into the ground, almost stunned into unconsciousness by the force of the Ghosthound’s blow. But somehow he bit his tongue and stayed awake, managing to keep ahold of his trusty iron ball as well.
Groaning, he rolled on his side, and then weakly rolled back, and he felt some bones of his ribs shift.
Holy fucking shit, but the Ghosthound hit like a fucking truck.
Feeling slightly foolish, almost as if he was cheating, Tykes removed a health potion from his pocket and downed it. Instantly he felt better, able to breath again. He hacked out a wad of blood and tried to roll again, only to fall back, too tired.
He supposed he was knocked out of the battle anyway so…
As he lay there, listening to the clash of weapons, he just looked up at the blue sky hanging over them. Even if they won, if they lost… Tykes was happy. Donny would scold him for putting himself in such direct danger, but it was worth it. Tykes wanted to win. He wanted to feel like he helped them win.
So even though he was the only member of the Raid Party without a class, Tykes had thrown himself in harm’s way.
He had been one of the initial volunteers for Daniel’s skill program, and had been part of the second batch, with an indefinite timetable as NCCs. But Tykes didn’t mind. He liked Donnyton. Liked its simple, focused people, liked the endless food, even liked the constant presence of violence. That, at least, hadn’t changed in Tykes’ life, but now he was no longer on the receiving end.
Until now, that is.
Gritting his teeth, Tykes rolled over, looking towards the Ghosthound. He had struck Decklan, but the rest of the Raid Team was closing in on his position. All of a sudden, tall, thorny walls sprung up, about 2 meters tall, blocking off vision, isolating most of the squad.
“Retreat-!” Came Donny’s yell, but it was too late.
“Circle of Flame.”
The first spell blasted outward, igniting the thorns and smashing them outwards. Propelled by the close blast of fire, these flaming, thorny walls knocked most of the nearby squad members over, crushing them with heat, inflicting dozens of small wounds with the thorns.
As the smoke cleared, the Ghosthound was standing alone, surrounded by slowly burning piles of thorns. “Is that all, Donnyton?”
Tykes was insulated from the blast based on where he was lying, but the heat still burned his face. Pressing his eyes together to force away the bitter tears, Tykes just breathed for a long moment.
Then he opened them, and saw a beautiful figure, upside down, on the hill overlooking the arena. She was slender and blonde, with her hair twisting around her face. She seemed young, younger even than Tykes, staring intently at the arena.
He knew her, she was the girl who had always had such a weird relationship with the Ghosthound, the girl who was now somehow a town spirit, the girl they whispered had died. Lyra.
To Tykes immense surprise, she blew him a kiss.
Almost unbidden, Tykes blinked again and the girl was gone. But the strange heat from that blown kiss had not.
Tykes struggled to his feet, hefting the iron ball. “We…. we are not done-!”
Congratulations! Due to your actions, you have unlocked the Path Unyielding Will 0/10.
Tykes blinked as the Ghosthound slowly turned. In the Ghosthound’s green eyes, Tykes saw a flicker of recognition, which was oddly pleasing. But when the Ghosthound smiled, it was all ice.
“Then let’s finish this.”
With infinite slowness, the Ghosthound began to step towards Tykes, over the burning thorn walls. Unsure of what else to do, Tykes opened up his status screen.
Tykes (Last Name Unknown)
Health(/R per hour): 93/355 (63)
Mana(/R per hour): 21/21 (7)
Stam(/R per min): 6/192 (20)
Skills: Perseverance Lvl 32, Running Lvl 19, Physical Fitness Lvl 22, Endure Lvl 14, Farming Lvl 7, Woodworking Lvl 15, Leap Lvl 23, Animal Skinning Lvl 12, Hunting Lvl 7, Manual Labor Lvl 19, Cooking Lvl 6, Ball and Chain Mastery Lvl 20, Throw Lvl 27, Cleaning Lvl 16, Tailoring Lvl 9, Tough Body Lvl 13, Crush Lvl 25, Heavy Blow Lvl 18, Herculean Strength Lvl 34, Mana Bolt Lvl 9, Flail Lvl 15, Battle Sense Lvl 3, Heightened Perception Lvl 7, Dodge Lvl 14
Tykes blinked very slowly, then moved as if possessed. 10 PP, huh…?
He poured it all into his new path.
Congratulations! You have completed the Unyielding Will Path! In the face of great adversity, you do not bow. Although your feet blister and rip, and your eyes tremble as you tire, you stand and continue forward. For you realize that there is no choice but to continue on this path, or die. You have learned the skill Inexhaustible Will Lvl 1. You have learned the skill Unyielding Sword Lvl 1. Due to compatibility, Unyielding Sword has changed to Rebounding Sphere Lvl 1. Vit, End, Str, and Agi +5.
Tykes barely had time to take the whole of the notification in before the Ghosthound arrived, thrusting with his pole. Scrambling backwards, Tykes threw his iron ball forward, trying to buy some time. But the pole blurred, smashing the ball to the side with pure power, hitting Tykes in the gut.
Gasping for air, Tykes felt something strange in his gut that was familiar, and yet strangely new. An unwillingness to concede, that caused warmth to flow outward into his limbs. He straightened, slowly recovering, and he saw that he gained a level in Unyielding Will.
With clear eyes, he straightened all the way, only to see the tip of the pole rushing for his face.
The body slumped over, lifeless, and Randidly considered the young man briefly. If given the chance, he would definitely become strong. Randidly almost regretted giving out all of his Blessings, for this young man would be a powerful choice, if untested.
But at the moment, there were other concerns.
He turned slowly to face Donny, Decklan, Dozer, Kayle, and Paolo, along with a gasping healer, who was clearly overdrawn. Under Randidly’s pointed gaze, the healer paled and raised his hands, then hurried out of the arena.
Looking completely healed, Donnyton’s 5 Classer leaders stepped forward.
“You can’t defeat me like this.” Randidly said, quietly, taking stock of himself. Around 50 mana, 400 Health, and 90 Stamina. He surreptitiously absorbed the remaining 150 stamina from the stones on his fingers. Even still, it was hard to keep his breathing under control, to keep his mouth from curling up.
This was it. This feeling of having his back against the wall.
To his delight, they didn’t answer, only crouching into a fighting stance and rushing towards him. Donny cast his spell Righteous Bonds, and now all 5 were covered in golden light, rushing towards him with grim looks in their eyes.
They came to slay a Ghosthound.