When it leaped, the ground beneath it shuddered. By some strange technological advancement, Katie’s powersuit instantly expanded from her wrist to cover all of her, and she moved rapidly to intercept, using her powerful legs to launch herself with a similar level of force.
Hank rolled to the side, out of the line of fire, drawing his left pistol, the repeater. In a second, he fired all 12 Mana Reinforced bullets, aiming to just test the defenses of the thing. Simultaneously, he could hear Ezekiel shooting out his Pierce spell.
The projectiles hit the ram with small impacts, thin spurts of blood shooting out each time. But the wounds were shallow, and as Hank watched, they rapidly healed. Laurel backed off from the group, beginning to chat.
The ram smashed into Katie, and the powersuit was sent sprawling off to the side. It landed and turned with angry eyes towards Hank, who had hit its face with a bullet. But before it could move, Affina was there, here thin bamboo pole crystallized into a slim jade sword. Her strike streaked forward, aiming to slide into the back of the ram’s neck.
Its eyes flashed as it swung its head to the side with deceptive speed, knocking the sword aside. Then it leaped forward, aiming to run her over. Unfortunately for it, it had drastically underestimated Affina, as had Hank. The girl stepped to the side and drew a long gash along its side as it sailed past, the largest wound they had inflicted on it so far.
It bellowed powerfully, just in time for Hank to raise his repeater and shoot bullets into its open mouth. When the bullets arrived, it immediately began to gag, stumbling backward and shaking its head. Calmly, Hank took a stepped forward, reloading his repeater. Then he took another step and replaced it at his side.
Normal bullets wouldn’t do against this foe.
Katie had recovered and spear tackled into the ram’s side, sending it staggering even more. Noticing it was off balance, Katie began to rain blows down on its side. Hank couldn’t tell if she was doing serious damage, but it was definitely weakening it enough to give the rest of them a chance.
Ezekiel continued to use pierce, inflicting small wounds. Affina had somehow disappeared from Hank’s awareness, but he knew she would strike when she had an opening.
Hank breathed in, then breathed out. Then he drew his pistol in a smooth motion, aiming at the ram’s head. But at the last second, he hesitated, because through the sole’s of his feet he could feel the ground rumbling beneath him. Something was coming.
Just as Hank opened his mouth to warn his companions, it arrived, a ram double the size of the one they had found, its purple fur darkened to the deepest midnight. It landed between Hank and the younger ram, its burning red eyes regarding him hatefully. Hank had half a mind to shrug. They wouldn’t have fought with this critter if they could help it.
It snorted, and Hank’s eyes narrowed. He rolled out of the way just in time to avoid a blast of… something. There was a strange distortion in the air, but no heat or wind.
“Sound waves,” Affina said, materializing next to him. “If that hits, at the very least it will rupture your eardrums for a few hours. But I bet it also includes a debilitating headache.”
Hank raised his pistol and fired.
The bullet zipped forward, moving much faster than it had a right to. Even so, the ram reacted, blurring to the side and out of the way of the oncoming bullet.
Hank smiled. Not fast enough.
The bullet struck one of its metallic golden horns and ricocheted off. Hank’s smile faltered somewhat. It had… blocked that?
A boom of a sounding bell echoed throughout the field, much louder than Hank had expected, causing him to wince. It seemed that the horns were part of the fuel for its strange sonic attacks. A thin crack appeared in the horn, about 10 centimeters long.
Instantly, the whole demeanor of the ram changed. When it had arrived, it had been furious that these lesser beings had dared threaten its young. Although it was also just Level 59, those two 59’s were separated by years of experience that gave it the tools to fight against them.
‘Skill Levels,’ Hank thought to himself, considering the opponent before him, ‘I should have spent so much more time training up my Skill Levels.’
Hadn’t he done that?
It wasn’t enough, the thought returned.
The midnight ram snorted. A wave of sonic energy spread out, resonating with the golden horns. It hit Hank and sent him sprawling backward with a grunt. The attack was weaker than the directed snort, and Hank could also sense that there was a flaw in the attack; it seemed his strike on the golden horns had done more than he had expected.
Hank quickly righted himself, but just as quickly fell back over, feeling warm blood flowing out of his ears. There was a dull ringing there, but nothing more. In addition, his balance was off in a very dangerous way. But Hank gritted his teeth, straightening through sheer force of will.
‘If I don’t recover, I’m going to die.’
His body straightened, to find the midnight arrive careening towards him, dashing up the field. At the last second, Hank rolled to the side, leveling the revolver at the ram’s side. But as it passed him, it twisted, performing a barrel roll. Hank held his shot and took more careful aim in a different direction.
Across the field, Katie was in an armor that glowed with the strength of an external battery. But in exchange, it seemed she was quickly overpowering the younger ram, with Ezekiel’s assistance. It seemed that both of them were slightly disheveled, but none the worse for ware.
Hank breathed in, breathed out, and then fire.
The younger ram’s head exploded in a spray of gore.
Again, Hank felt more than saw the older ram’s ire. He twisted around, just in time to get smashed with another wave of force. Luckily, this was the weakened, universal direction force, but this time he was much closer to the epicenter, and the blow was so jarring that he blacked out briefly.
When he came to, he was still midair, and his whole body was oddly numb, floating on the force of the ram’s attack. Very slowly, his eyes opened and closed. His head was pounding. He couldn’t tell how long he had been in the air.
‘If I don’t recover, I’m going to die.’
Hank gritted his teeth, forcing his eyes to focus. The midnight ram was right in front of him, rushing towards him with an open mouth. Its teeth were yellow and wide, the remains of some fleshy creature ground between them.
“I’m like a dentist, buddy.” Hank found himself saying. “It’s gonna hurt, but if we don’t do this now, yur gonna get cavities.”
His hands moved more slowly than he remembered, but Hank managed to get his revolver up and fire a bullet, smashing through the ram’s lower jaw. It screamed, blood spraying onto the ground, and Hank had time to notice that the small crack in its right horn had grown, and was now almost spanning half of the horn. Then he body hit the unforgiving ground, and the wind was knocked out of him.
Blinking, he just managed to glimpse Katie ripping past him, Laurel’s powerful spirit wings on her back. Again she slammed against a ram, and again, she seemed to trip it up somewhat, even if it didn’t inflict any lasting damage.
Breathing out a long-held breath, Hank propped himself up. He could feel a queer burning in his ears and raised his hands to rub them.
Ezekiel was next to him, and raised his hands and pointed towards the midnight ram, his mouth open. He was likely yelling, but Hank couldn't’ figure out what he was saying. Ne never truly took the time to learn to read lips.
From his finger, a cloud of darkness formed, then shout forward to obscure the ram’s eyes, it screamed again, its horns vibration, but as the resonance built, the right horn shattered, shards shooting off, sinking deep into Katie’s powersuit. Other bits sunk into the ram’s face, causing it to scream further, shaking its head to dispel the darkness. Unfortunately for it, it stuck to its eyes, keeping it blinded.
Ezekiel switched to using Pierce, hitting the ram, again and again, spraying more and more blood. Affina appeared and slashed quickly, her slim sword now looking like an arm's length needle. The blow ripped through a tendon in the ram’s back leg, and it toppled over, flailing wildly, seeking the source of the attack. Affina spun away, then pounced again, driving her needle in and out of its body, lightning fast.
Hank spat out some blood and raised his revolver. When he fired, he was disappointed that he could only feel the noise, rather than experiencing the clean reverberations of the pistol. Strangely, as soon as he fired the ram leaped to the side, throwing itself wildly out of the way. It landed quite close to Laurel, who scrambled backward away from it. The strange burning in Hank’s ears grew stronger.
The ram seemed to hear her struggles and leaped towards Laurel. Gritting his teeth, Hank fired again. Again, the ram reacted instinctively, throwing itself to the side. The burning in his ears had become almost painful until he heard a weird popping noise.
There was a hand on his shoulder, and Hank turned to regard Ezekiel.
“You have that thing scared shitless,” Ezekiel said. “The gunshots spook it every time. Just let it die now.”
Affina was next to them too, and she nodded. “My needle nicked its heart. It was a small wound, but Jade will grow there until its heart turns to stone and it dies. How long can you keep it blind?”
Ezekiel winced. “Might need some Mana Potions… but I’ll keep it blinded for long enough.
The ram howled, its pain and fear clear in its voice.