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Tartet and Dian glanced at each other warily. Although both didn’t want the other’s help, both knew that Randidly’s spells gave him an edge that was hard to overcome with pure spear work. As such, if they didn’t work together, it was highly possible that Randidly could overwhelm them from attacks from too many directions, and eliminate them. But they also didn’t want to take any concerted actions to stop it.

Randidly casually walked forward, waving his spear, unwilling to give them much time to work out their plan. A hole sprung up in the middle of the stage, large enough for a child to crawl into. And out of that, a dozen Root Spiders crawled out, skittering over the ground. Both Dian and Tartet gaped, unsure of what they were seeing.

Although he had wanted the Pollen of the Rafflesia plan to work, Randidly had never held out much hope. So he had been hollowing out a small area underneath the stage in the meantime, his two opponents suspecting nothing as he drank mana potion after mana potion, and began summoning Root Spiders.

The strange creatures began skittering towards Dian and Tartet, and both raised their spears, ready to meet them. Although they didn’t recognize them, they did have some sense of their strength, and they were only distracting, as always, the true threat lay with Randidly.

Randidly continued to stalk forward, walking closer to the two of them. The Root spiders circled around them, threatening, but not moving. His two opponents exchanged a glance.

Which was exactly what Randidly was waiting for.

The ground underneath Tartet erupted, thick roots springing out to drag him down, into the ground. Tartet cursed and struggled, his two vibrating spears ripping through the roots, but he still toppled forward from his initial momentum, falling into the hole, which was tightly packed with more Root Spiders. They leaped at him, showing their teeth.

Randidly turned his eyes to Dian. That trap would hold Tartet for a time, but wouldn’t be able to kill him. But once Dian was out of the picture…

Accelerating forward, Randidly ran, his Root Spiders leaping behind him. Her eyes sparkling, Dian raised her whip spear and swiped forward, the weapon extending and slashing outward. Without missing a beat Randidly sidestepped, and his spiders leapt over the strike.

Her face flushing, Dian lashed out more. But just like his Roots hadn’t worked on her, now that Randidly had seen her use the weapon, it was rather easy to avoid at this range. The true danger was when it was in close quarters, and a stray attack could break the skin and once more spread that poison throughout his body.

The potions and his own resiliency had been able to drive away most of the effects, but there was still a strange stiffness to him, that he wasn’t able to shake. His body could eliminate it well enough to run, but there appeared to be some residue.

So he had a vested interest in staying as far as possible from additional damage from those strikes. And as Randidly rushed closer, he hoped that his Spear Phantom’s Footwork was enough to keep the distance he needed to avoid those attacks.

Dian kept throwing strikes forward, but Randidly moved between them, and the Root Spiders came close enough to start leaping at her. Cursing, she stumbled backwards, slicing them away.

Randidly took advantage of the distraction and arrived before her, using Haste, Empower, and Mana Strengthening to push his Spear Phantom’s Footwork to a frightening level of efficacy. Raising his spear, Randidly aimed for the shoulder she used to hold her spear whip and used Phantom Thrust.

Her reactions, however, were still top notch. She spun away, losing a tuft of her already short hair as she ducked and twisted through Randidly’s follow up attacked. She raised her spear whip, but he wasn’t about to give her a chance to use it. While summoning Spearing Roots to attack her legs from behind, Randidly used Phantom Onslaught, unleashing thrust after thrust. If she refused to succumb to the precision stuff, better to drown her while he had her on her heels.

But she continued to surprise him. Twisting her feet in a weird way, she hopped a few inches off the ground, stepping on his Spearing Roots, using them to vault over his head and flip to safety.

Even so, she only had a brief second of respite before Randidly arrived, using Phantom Onslaught again. But her move had given her enough room to bring around her spear whip, and she was currently out of the range of the Root Spiders, so she was able to defend against his attack.

Or at least most of it. Perhaps if it was the only move, she would have survived without a scratch. But it had been refined through the clash with Tartet, and several of his thrusts during the Onslaught ripped large gashes in her shoulders and torso.

Gasping, she stumbled backwards, her eyes flashing. With gritted teeth, she said. “You-”

“Circle of Flame.”

A blast of fire expanded outwards, cutting of her speech and sending her stumbling backwards. His eyes glittering, Randidly advanced, his spear raised. After three steps, however, a spear burst out of the ground, vibrating fiercely.

Randidly immediately sensed it and dodged to the side, but it ripped into his calf, severing several very important tendons. He hissed in annoyance. They would heal, but it would take a while

“You imbecile, did you think that was enough to give me pause?” Tartet asked, bursting out of the ground. His scowl seemed carved on his face, but as he glanced to the side, towards the fellow challenger, his eyes narrowed further, and the scowl dropped away, revealing…

A hint of something else. Of fear.

Panting, Dian stood, her hand held up in front of her. Around her hand that strange energy swirled, going faster and faster, forming a vortex around her hand, slowly growing larger, soon spreading to envelope all of her.

“Do you dare, disciple of the Phantom Sect?” She hissed, her expression haughty. “This is the Path of the Devourer: The Greedy Hand. Before it, all attacks… are eaten.”

Tartet hastily backed away, clearly recognizing this move. But Randidly didn’t know it. But again, their eyes locked.

‘Flee before me,’ Her proud gaze seemed to say.

‘My spiders are gnawing on your achilles. You cannot move.’ He answered.

They both stood there, while the energy around her hand grew more and more chaotic. As he watched, her fingers warped, then bent and cracked backwards, causing her to groan softly. So the strange energy would even devour her…? A foolish move then.

But thinking of his own Agony, Randidly couldn’t help but smile. Perhaps there was some appeal to foolish moves after all.

Most of all, Randidly realized that he needed to be true to his image of the spear, if he wanted to continue to improve. And his spear would advance, in the face of anything. After briefly considering trying to surround his spear with that strange Intent energy again, he swiftly discarded it. Dian’s previous intent burnt through his rather quickly, and this looked even more fearsome. That wasn’t the answer.

He had to advance…

...But perhaps the spear wouldn’t always be the weapon that he chose to use to do so.

So Randidly raised his hands, reaching deep inside himself.

“Let me see how hungry that hand of yours really is…” Randidly whispered. “Inspiration… Pestilence, descend, flood this land.”

****

As his disciple raised his hands, Shal narrowed his eyes. He had learned a lot of things in his travels, had seen a lot of different skills and spells. But his disciple was… strange. When he looked at him, he only saw a being that was extremely talented at survival, but without many other strengths to speak of.

But as Shal watched this battle, he was forced to admit that when it came down to it, everything else was just applied survival; just that skill was enough to let his disciple dominate these two talented spear users.

He supposed he should feel proud of the performance, but…

….it was all done so sloppily… He was definitely going to beat some sense into that disciple after this.

The Greedy Hand brought back some memories that Shal preferred not to think about, and put him in a morose mood. If he hadn’t been so cheered by watching the three spear users dismiss Egger’s disciple so decisively, he might have gotten up and left. That move would also pose an interesting challenge to Randidly. After all, even Shal had struggled against the user of that move, although the user was on a completely different level of strength.

It was almost impossible to directly overwhelm. And without the Spear Phantom Skill-set to attack the girl directly...

Then Shal heard the buzzing, and looked up. His eyes widened. A huge cloud swirled above the arena, so large it blotted out the sun. It drifted downward, and the buzzing swiftly became a droning. A deafening chorus of hatred and hunger.

Shal almost chuckled as he watched the millions of bugs swirl downwards in a funnel, heading towards that hungry, vicious energy in the girl’s hands. “You certainly don’t slouch when you make a decision, do you? Perhaps… it was fate that we met, disciple.”

Chittering their defiance, the bugs crashed into the energy.

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