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A note from puddles4263

6/7

Randidly’s eyes were narrowed as he considered the Skeleton Knight, who was rushing towards him. Truly, this bastard was strong. More so than anyone he had fought but Drak. True, Randidly had grown a lot since his fight against Drak, but…

Drak had let him seize the momentum. Something told Randidly that the Skeleton Knight wouldn’t do the same.

That huge sword of his flashed out, traveling faster than a weapon of that size had any right to. Luckily or unluckily, Randidly moved on instinct, raising his spear to block the weapon. But again, the edge of the blade dug deep, sinking into the spear, making the weapon shudder.

This time, however, Randidly was ready for it. He let go of the first spear and grabbed the other already formed to his right, and struck out. The Skeleton Knight’s counter was smooth, and Randidly was forced to sidestep, hissing.

Immediately, Randidly activated Haste, Empower, and Mana Strengthening, moving at his top speed to lash out at the Skeleton Knight’s knees. It remained to be seen whether Randidly could do any actual damage with these spears, considering how powerful the armor appeared to be. As he expected, the tip skittered off of the metal, leaving barely a mark.

Randidly tsk’d, spinning away, avoiding the extremely rapid stab that aimed for Randidly’s follow up strike. Not only was the Skeleton Knight powerful stat-wise, but he also had excellent fundamental skills. An annoying but effective combo.

The huge sword lashed out again, as smooth as a lake on a cold day.

This time, Randidly met the strike, allowing the sword to sink into the wood of the spear. But instead of pulling back, he pushed, activating Stalemate Breaker, grunting and smashing the Skeleton Knight backwards.

This finally seemed to grab the Skeleton Knight’s attention, and he immediately hopped backwards several steps, creating some distance. Although he knew what was waiting for him, Randidly stepped forward to follow. The counter was so sharp that Randidly almost swore aloud, cursing that sword that must weigh as much as toothpick.

But with a double activation of Phantom Half Step, Randidly was within the range of the strike, and smashed it aside with his shoulder. Or tried to. The strike was powerful enough to still push him back a little. Not enough to stop the root spear which Randidly shoved towards the eye of the Skeleton Knight.

Twisting, the Skeleton Knight ducked under the thrust, displaying a surprising amount grace for a skeleton in a giant suit of armor. Randidly grunted as the Skeleton Knight’s elbow hit him in the gut. His temper flared hot in his chest. This fucking…!

Fine, no more feints. Channeling all of his passive skills, Randidly began to summon more and more root spears to smash against the armor of the Skeleton Knight. At first, the Skeleton Knight managed to hold his own against the onslaught, Randidly burning his Stamina for an advantage.

The swordwork of the Skeleton Knight was flawless, or it least it would have been, had Randidly not destroyed the ground underneath him, making him stumble. Then Randidly began to really lay on the pain, Slashing and Sweeping against the armor, slowly leaving increasing amounts of scratches and dents.

Very quickly, the Skeleton Knight righted himself, and adjusted to the tactic, avoiding the unstable ground, or at least trying to. But there was only so much you could do when the attacks came from beneath the earth, destroying your stance underneath you, silent and invisible.

After about 3 minutes of this, Randidly withdrew, his chest heaving, taking the opportunity to catch his breath somewhat. Immediately, Golden Roots of Yggdrasil activated, thick veins of golden energy flowing up through the ground into the bare soles of his feet. At the same time, in his chest, Second Wind kicked up, filling him with warm vigor.

Although the Skeleton Knight’s face was fleshless, his emotions still conveyed rather clearly through the bone medium. “Who….no, what are you? You cannot be this strong, not this quickly.”

Randidly grinned. These were spread out across the armor, but there were now dozens of long gashes in the cast iron armor that covered its body. Its expression was grim as it considered Randidly. Although he had stopped, Randidly would be able to start dissecting the armor further now, now that it was riddled with flaws. Although the quality of the spears wasn’t initially high, Randidly was learning how to focus his Mana, increasing the strength of the root materials to a more damaging level.

With that, combined with his high Strength and repeated strikes to the same spot, he was able to tear the armor to pieces. It was… fun, this sort of fight. Matching wits, pushing the opponent, relying on the unpredictability to push the other back and seize the momentum. But just like Randidly had predicted, the Skeleton Knight was good at quashing it as soon as it arose.

Still, his practice sessions with Azriel weren’t in vein; in terms of learning to vary his tactics, Randidly was probably a genius, if only at applying the same skill, over and over in different ways. Through slight variations in timing and application, Randidly could use the Skeleton Knight’s own responses against him, clouding his reactions and injecting self-doubt.

But there was a limit to this effectiveness, which was why he took a brief break. Too much, too fast, and the Skeleton Knight would stop trying to internalize the timing and just shift to pure instinct. And based on what Randidly had seen from him thus far, those instincts would be difficult to deal with.

“...still, even with your strength…” The Skeleton Knight said, straightening and holding his blade aloft. “You are still flesh. As long as the moment comes where you tire, your body grinding to a halt, you will fall to me.”

Randidly just chuckled. This time, when the Skeleton Knight approached there was no hesitation, no grace. It was all brutal power and haste, designed to press Randidly towards the edge of his exhaustion. And honestly, it would probably work too, against a normal opponent.

But Randidly was anything but normal.

Raising his hand and pointing, Randidly activated Incinerating Bolt. The first three ripped out in quick succession, clipping the Skeleton Knight’s armor and ripping large holes. But the third through fifth bolts were devoured by the Skeleton Knight’s sword. The blade seemed to leap to life, curving and blocking them all. Instantly, the flames were devoured and consumed.

The Skeleton Knight paused, moving backwards. Randidly narrowed his eyes, gazing at the offending sword in his hand. Glowing with a dim light, it was clear that something had changed.

“Oh? You use magic. I would recommend you not do that again, but it’s already too late. My dear Mage’s Bane has your scent.” The light around the sword flared, and Randidly could feel the Mana in his body tremble.

This… was dangerous. Although Randidly couldn’t be sure, the way it made his Mana feel reminded him of the way the Engraving Needle made his Mana tremble. Which meant, if the sword were to come in contact with him, his Mana might flow out into that sword. Which based on the light… would grow stronger.

Best to nip that in the bud as quickly as possible. Still, Randidly resolved not to use Inspiration, because it was a weapon that was proven to work against the Creature in the past. As long as it might be skulking around nearby, it had to be held in reserve. So for this… it was time to show this world that not everything Randidly learned from Shal’s world was about spears.

“Huuu… I feel slightly embarrassed to have to attack while you are tired, but-....eh….?” The Skeleton Knight trailed off, continuing to advance towards Randidly, but slowing down. In the air around them, there was a thick layer of mist. A soft ticking emerged in the background, making the air vibrate.

Randidly’s eyes burned emerald, and his smile was sharp. The aura of the Spear Phantom spread, sliding over the ground. His Battle Intent was thick, floating out around them, pressing down on them both, giving Randidly a perfect view of them both.

“...an image….? Extremely sharp too… You certainly are a worthy opponent. However…” Around the Skeleton Knight, a powerful sharp edge of metal filled the air, ripping through Randidly’s image. But that only caused Randidly to bare his teeth more, and his Battle Intent swirled and thickened further, keeping them both shrouded in the mist.

The Skeleton Knight could do nothing but slow to a stop, as Randidly completely disappeared from his field of view. Spinning slowly, his copper-fire eyes scanned the area around him. “You never struck me as the hiding type.”

“I’m not.” Randidly whispered, and the Skeleton Knight spun around, leveling his sword, which howled with glee, finally having located its target. As the blade slashed towards Randidly’s chest, he met it with the Inevitable Phantom Arrives, which seemed to hang in the air. As the Skeleton Knight took in the exchange, initially he sneered, but then his face drastically changed.

The thrust smashed aside his slash, ripping through his armor and shattering several of his ribs. Instinctively, he brought his hand across in a punch, aiming for Randidly’s chin, but Randidly was abruptly nothing more than a Phantom, blown away by the blow, borrowing the force to twist around and bring his spear in for another attack, slashing downward.

This time the Skeleton Knight moved much more quickly, bringing up his guard. But Randidly’s cut… jumped forward as the Idiosyncratic Cut activated, and the blow caught the Skeleton Knight in the collarbone, shattering it and sending him stumbling.

“You…” The Skeleton Knight whispered, even as his sword howled.

Randidly only grinned and stepped forward.

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puddles4263

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