“Lucifer, kill those fuckers before they make it worse!” Alana barked. “Drake-”
“Yea, I can’t stay like this,” Drake said, shivering, as he dismissed the armor. He put the heavier sword back into his spatial ring and removed another, one-handed sword that he could more easily use without the boost in Strength from the Bone Armor.
“Annie, you are our other main source of damage then,” Rose said, snapping back into focus after realizing her error earlier. Drake suspected the real reason it had happened was that it wasn’t targeting them, so she hadn’t thought to dig more deeply into what was happening. Also, the appearance of the Stagbat was a pretty intimidating thing in and of itself…
Raising its head, the Stagbat released its braying call, as the Raid Party split, heading to strike at the two groups.
Lucifer covered the distance quickly but was unable to catch the Grey Death Cultist as it recognized the ambush that was coming and rolled to the side to avoid his strike. Grimacing, Lucifer immediately withdrew through the portal, closed it, and then just began to dead sprint towards the Death Cultists.
“Chrysanthemum, help him,” Thea said, before approaching with the rest of them towards the Stagbat.
Alana arrived first and wasted no time stabbing towards it, again and again, aiming to test the defense of its flesh with her spear. But the Stagbat was surprisingly graceful, more so now that it didn’t have to drag its withered wings along on the ground with it. It weaved through her strike and then stepped forwards, flapping its wings for an extra boost of speed.
What should have been a short hop turned into a charge, and Drake was smashed to the side by the momentum of its advance. However, he hadn’t spent the last month in constant battle in vain. As their bodies crossed each other, Drake twisted, raising his sword, letting the Stagbat pierce itself with its own speed.
To Drake’s surprise, the sword slid into its soft fur without any sort of resistance. When the Stagbat landed, it stumbled a little, but instead of braying, the bat head on its back twisted, opening its mouth.
“You…. will…. Feeed me…. Let’s…. Die together…..ha….” It slowly enunciated, as green ichor splashed out of the sword wound, eating into the sword that was still lodged in its chest, until the hilt fell to the ground, warped by the blood of this creature, the rest of the blade already disintegrated.
But this did have the side effect of starting its blood gushing out of the hole, and the Stagbat swayed, unsteadily.
“Incoming!” Rose shouted. She needn’t have said anything though, because before she spoke one of Annie’s arrows was already released, catching the crimson orb at its bottom. The whole thing didn’t disperse, but the bottom half of the orb exploded with the force of the arrow, and as the remaining half traveled forward, a red dust drifted down behind it, settling on the ground, also weakening the spell further. But the crimson orb still reached the Stagbat before anyone else could react; it simply traveled too quickly.
The sword wound closed up, and it seemed the rigidity to its spread wings eased somewhat, but little else seemed to change. By this point, Lucifer arrived at the Death Cultists and began cutting through the Red Death Cultists, aiming for the Grey Death Cultist that continued to chant.
Chrysanthemum arrived soon after him, and where he was like a methodical butcher, she simply crushed opposition, making a beeline for the Grey Death Cultist. It hissed in annoyance, switching abruptly to a Wither spell, but it was too late. Chrysanthemum crashed into its body and began mauling the Death Cultist.
“For the great oblivion!” It shouted, executing a strange series of syllables very quickly, and Death Cultists around him fell like flies, dying quickly and easily.
Meanwhile, Drake, Alana, and Ace weaved through those grey lines of force. They didn’t travel particularly quickly, but they could change directions on a dime, which meant that near miss dodging was more dangerous than it was useful against this enemy. And based on how much damage was done to a metal sword….
How would a human body hold up against that passage of time? Even with a System increased Vitality…
“Fuck me,” Ace cursed, removing his helmet, which had been clipped by a beam. He then watched, frozen and wide-eyed, as the helmet turned to dust and fell away. At that moment, Ace was pale in a way that Drake had never seen him before, seemingly lost without his helmet. Drake was aware of the theatrics that Ace had employed with ‘Dauntless’ and the jokes at his expense that called him insane, but only now did Drake realize how true it was.
This man… something precious at his core was irrevocably broken. That helmet had kept it hidden, but now…
Another beam rushed towards him, and when Alana yelled, he didn’t respond. At that moment, Clarissa launched a Lightning Bolt smashed him to the side, the beam narrowly missing him. Drake caught the body and took a welcome break from the high-stress game of dodging beams of death by old age, returning Ace’s still shocked body to Ptolemy.
Or that’s what he meant to do, but Ptolemy took this as a signal to switch, and with a nod, he moved forward, supporting Alana against the Stagbat.
Annie rained a constant flood of arrows against the Stagbat, aiming for its stag portion of the body, with its soft flesh, because the bat portion repelled the normal arrows easily. Luckily, the bat’s wings were still rather stiff, and it was unable to move them well to protect its more vulnerable core body, leaving it with a dozen or so bleeding scratches across its torso.
Chrysanthemum quickly overpowered the Grey Death Cultist and her jaws closed on its neck. But it managed to finish its spell, and a huge orb of crimson formed, around three times the size of those previous orbs, and flew forward towards the Stagbat. Before Chrysanthemum even crushed its neck, it fell back, lifeless.
Chrysanthemum still bit down, of course, if just for the satisfying crunch.
As the orb rushed forward, Annie switched her target, her arrows clustered together to destroy the orbs quickly. But as the arrows approached, the orbs split into a dozen smaller orbs, avoiding the clustered arrows.
“Chain Lightning!” Clarissa shouted, and a bolt shot forward. Before it could strike, however, the orbs split again, each becoming twelve smaller orbs once more. And although the Chain Lightning destroyed 20 orbs on its own, and Annie was able to pierce another 10 or so, that only destroyed 20% of that strange, healing energy, and the rest reached the Stagbat.
Immediately, the change became obvious, not just in the fact that its wounds healed, but also because its wings, which were more like the arms form that the Death Cultists possessed to this point, now spread out to about 30 meters wide, really casting a huge shadow.
Quickly, Annie returned to bombarding it, but its wings had regained close to their full ability to move, and they smashed arrows away harmlessly. Annie cursed. The speed at which it cast the grey time beams increased too, and the close combat warriors were driven back, to about 30 meters, which seemed to be the range outside of which the beam's energy fizzled into nothing.
“Any ideas?” Annie asked Alana.
Frowning at the monster, which was now braying again, Alana said. “Yes, but I don’t want to spook it into-”
A fist-sized rock struck the Stagbat on the nose, sending it cantering a few steps backward, snorting and sneezing. Then it glared at Ace, who had apparently recovered enough to stand and attack, and was grinning at it in a very pleased manner.
The bat head on its back tried its best to roar, but it only came out as a high pitched whine, more bile oozing out of its mouth. The wings spread and began to beat, driving the Stagbat off the ground and into the air, its huge wings buffeting them all with huge gusts of air. It rose, only about 10 meters, but then ascended rapidly, higher and higher.
As it did so, the Raid Dungeon group watched as its wings appeared to grow, spreading thinner and thinner, until the stag portion of the body was just a tiny speck of dust, and its true body was those wings, that could cover the sky, so much so that if you didn’t look up you could have mistaken the shadow for a malevolent cloud.
“...because I didn’t want to spook it into realizing it could fly,” Alana finished, frowning at Ace’s cackling form.
“Why not just let it go?” Ptolemy suggested. “We can go find the Ghosthound, and with him-”
A beam of energy, thick and grey, shot downwards towards them. Immediately the group scattered, leaping and dashing out of the way. This time, there was a small explosion where the beam hit the ground, and in a 10-meter area the soil disintegrated and was blown away by the wind.
“...will it let us?” Rose asked grimly, looking at the Stagbat, which now was swooping down towards them, another large sphere of grey forming between its antlers.
“This thing… is unnatural.” Lucifer announced, causing Drake to snort. Well, no shit.
“We need-” Rose began, but then her eyes widened. “Move! As far away from the city as possible. Right-”
She didn’t need to finish. There was only a small rumble, and then all at once, there was an explosion from the Dintan city, buildings and that strange sculpture collapsing, almost unwilling, refusing to cease to be before it even had a chance to grow.
Very quickly, the rumbling was unbearable, and from the ground of the ruined city, a hand shot upwards, formed of molten lava, waves of heat surrounding it. It shot up and up, growing larger and larger, until it made the Stagbat look like an ant, looming above it.
Reacting quickly, the Stagbat changed direction and shot forward, moving more quickly than should be possible, but the huge hand of lava pursued, falling downwards. When it became clear that even with its prodigious speed it couldn’t escape, the Stagbat spun around and unleashed a blast of that grey energy.
But the hand was simply too large, and after discharging its energy, the Stagbat was smashed into the ground, driven by the hand. Luckily, the strike had descended a little bit to their east, but still, there were large fissures formed on the ground from the force of that much mass crashing into the ground.
“...Think its dead?” Annie asked curiously, peering towards the impact zone. She was the only one with the nerve to ask that, Drake reflected. That girl was made of ice.
“Unfortunately not,” A voice answered, and the group turned to find the Ghosthound, looking much the worse for wear. His once regal Bone Cloak was ripped to shreds, large gashes running through it. His feet were bare, and Drake could see one of his toes was snapped. The area around his mouth and nose was stiff with dried blood as if he had been beaten repeatedly. But even so…. Even so…
Drake didn’t doubt that this man was still incredibly dangerous. What had he been fighting this whole time…? Hopefully, that opponent was dead, because if it wasn’t…
“Tsk,” The Ghosthound made an annoyed noise and cracked his neck. “The two Regalias were fused into its body. Their energy is keeping it alive… but only just. It’s a monster that shouldn’t exist. Let’s go put it out of its misery.”