Again, Ciel vanished from his view, but this time, Randidly was ready. His awareness, fueled by the Phantom’s Embrace, billowed out, filling the surround 2 meters. Every breath, every twitch, every muscle, every spear… Randidly could sense it, and control it. That was the vicious power of the Spear Phantom’s Embrace. That was the monstrous genius of Aemont.
As Ciel lashed out, aiming for Randidly’s back, he twisted away, using the short, shifting steps of the Spear Phantom’s Footwork to avoid the harm. Then he twisted around, bringing his spear across in a deadly Sweep, aiming for her head.
Eyes narrowed, she disappeared again, activating her skill. Randidly shifted in response, immediately striking. Over and over, they twisted and teleported, moving around each other in a complicated dance of spearmanship. Randidly was unable to figure out exactly how she was moving to make him lose his bearings for a second, but he could find her once she returned to strike.
Unfortunately, this was not a sustainable path for Randidly, and he was slowly growing more and more worried about it. After all, he had taken the initial momentum from Ciel, but only when a huge expenditure of Stamina, and he was now burning more than he was regenerating fighting with her like this. It seemed that she was probably also paying a high cost for her repeated use of her skills, but it was hard to know…
This time, when Randidly’s senses locked back onto Ciel after her disappearance, he raised his spear for a powerful overhand strike, and then simply kicked her in the side as her eyes rose to follow the weapon.
Or at least that’s what he planned, but Ciel saw it coming, and the butt of her spear swirled around, aiming to sever his foot. Annoyed at himself for putting him in a situation where he only had one foot on the ground, there was a split second of hesitation. Immediately afterward, Randidly surged into motion. It was now clear that he couldn’t avoid the strike, but…
In that strange moment of hesitation, Randidly felt something. A powerful stirring within the skill of the Phantom’s Embrace. Aether began to swirl through his body, filling his whole body with a tingling strength.
Ciel’s attack ripped downwards, slicing into his flesh. And immediately, Randidly felt a strange momentum fill him. Just as the blade cut him, he found the power to spin away, faster and more successfully than before, throwing his unbalanced body into motion.
His spear cut sideways at such a speed that even he couldn’t believe it. It was so fast that Ciel didn’t have time to activate her skill, but instead just hastily raised her spear, and she was smashed backwards by the force of his strike, sending her sprawling.
At the same time, Randidly’s chest was heaving, the consumption of Stamina by utilizing the Phantom’s Embrace like that was enormous. So he stood, simply staring down at her, as his monstrous regeneration began to kick in, rapidly restoring his strength. A small trickle of blood ran down his leg, over his bare foot, and finally settling on the stage.
But even though he was tired, Ciel appeared even more shaken. From the ground, she stared at him for a split second, the scrambled to her feet.
“Your speed…” Ciel muttered. The words hung in the air between them, as Ciel searched Randidly’s expression for some answer. He simply stood there, his face impassive. The only reason he allowed this brief break was because he firmly believed that her recovery was worse than his own. Honestly, if someone had as many support skills boosting them as Randidly did, along with a class, they would be unstoppable.
“Attack, Ciel. He’s just stalling for time!” Aethon Thai called, pounding his fist on the table. Randidly spared him a glance, annoyed. It seemed that the man had definitely chosen a favorite, and although Randidly expected as much, it was still strange that he would intervene so directly.
Perhaps she would doubt his words…?
Randidly turned back to Ciel, who had adopted a fighting stance and began to float over towards him. He sighed. That would be too good of luck, huh…? But the 20 seconds he had given himself was better than nothing, and had allowed him to return to even breathing.
Her advance was, if anything, more imposing the second time around, and this time she just ripped past him, lashing out quickly, before rushing around behind him and attacking at his back, seeming to skate in a huge loop around him.
Randidly grimaced. This did lower the unpredictability of her strikes, but vastly increased their power. She continued to accelerate, to the point that Randidly burst out laughing; this style of fighting… he knew it, and he knew someone who had done it a lot better.
Taking another gamble, based solely on Ciel’s high strength, after Randidly blocked her strike, he simply threw his body into her path, smashing into her, without any real intent to attack. They fell down in a tangle of limbs, and Randidly, having initiated the contact, spun around first, throwing Ciel’s body away.
She skidded on the ground, then jumped up, gasping and wincing. Randidly grinned. Yes, she hadn’t invested as much into Endurance and Vitality as he had. But this was still another way just to throw her off. Again, Randidly was tempted to use spells, but he still sensed some further power in the Phantom’s Embrace that he touched upon, and decided to refrain.
Instead, when he stepped towards Ciel, the image for the Phantom’s Embrace filled the air, a thick, cloying helplessness. A powerful isolation from the rest of the world, and your senses. As the image approached Ciel, her eyes remained bright, and she stepped forward into it, without a hint of fear.
Her spear lashed out, aiming for Randidly’s throat. Again, he made no move to dodge. Inwardly, his instincts screamed, but there was something else here. Something… deeper. Aether surged, once more rotating very quickly through his system. His eyes were ice cold, his heart burning hot. The world inside of him seemed to thrum and vibrate.
Strangely, a line at the end of the passage about Spear Phantom’s Embrace, from the diary, floated to the surface: “So long and sure is the reach of the Phantom that he dances safely in the shadow of the enemy's weapon.”
Randidly’s eyes narrowed. Just as the strike was about to rip out his throat, Randidly moved, riding the very momentum that Ciel struck with, using it to fuel his speed past his physical limits, blurring and twisting, jaggedly dodging and smashing with his spear like a hammer, barely able to control the borrowed power.
True to her training, Ciel responded, and finally her eyes blazed with a final surety that Randidly recognized; now was the time she gave up on waiting and unleashed.
“The Shrike Cries over a Barren Land!”
Ciel’s arms blurred, and she twisted her spear 360 degrees at a speed Randidly couldn’t even understand. From that movement, a wave of force blasted outwards. Immediately his grip tightened on the spear, but there too seemed to be a whispering in the powerful wave that Ciel had created, a whispering of Phantoms.
So, even with his body bursting at the seams with barely controlled powerful from the previously stolen momentum, Randidly stepped forward, arriving before the wave of force. Then he hopped, and the blast launched him upwards, so quickly the world seemed to blur.
When he finally could see again, he appeared to be about 5 meters in the air, reaching the apex of the leap. Randidly released a breath, then began to fall.
Aethon Thai’s eyes narrowed as he watched his daughter struggle against this scion of the Spear Phantom. Especially when he started using that absolutely abhorrent move that Aemont became famous for, the Spear Phantom’s Embrace. It was partly through driving the body to the edge of danger, and having the instincts kick in there, and half borrowing the force of momentum, but it made use of both to propel one through the absolutely masterful footwork and strike back.
Luckily, the boy seemed rather inexperienced at controlling it, and was only able to lash out wildly. But still, the power he could utilize was real.
Aethon knew too, why Ciel would choose to use her most powerful skill then, that she had originally planned to use to neutralize the Ghosthound’s spells. She didn’t understand what was happening, what skills he was using. From her perspective, he simply increased the speed at which he was moving, while increasing his power, which was suitably intimidating. To seize control of the match, Ciel had struck.
But in Aethon’s eyes, the truth was so much more fearsome.
The boy even borrowed the force of her area spell to leap up in the air, where he was now hanging, rapidly speeding back down towards the ground. Ciel looked around wildly, shocked that her opponent had disappeared, before a whistling in the air drew her gaze upwards towards the descending figure.
There was nothing that Aethon could do to warn his daughter. Already, he had lost his temper and intervened, but now, as the level of their demonstrated skills increased, he dare not say anything, even if his daughter had made the foolish pronouncement about marriage. They were reaching the stage where they were transforming, showing off the spear user that they would become.
The Ghosthound was cashing in on the fearsome pedigree and potential he had, growing used to the almost cheating technique of Aemont. As for his daughter… She needed to find what sort of Shrike she would be through this clash.
With a huge crash, the Ghosthound returned to ground, shattering the stage, throwing up a cloud of dust. Without the slightest hesitation, Ciel ran forward, spear raised, slashing left and right.