Randidly felt the power of the Crown of Upheaval and Silence pulse with glee. It had been since the fight with the Witch King that he had last used it, and the warm rush of its power was a welcome addition to his fighting strength. With it active, the world seemed to slow to a manageable Level.
With a great effort, the Propagator puppet he had struck heaved itself back onto all fours. Its head twisted around, almost independent of its body, and the pale orbs of its eyes locked on Randidly.
Grimacing, Randidly looked down at his hands. While Azriel was slowly chipping her opponent to pieces with speed and Skill, Randidly had attempted to use the power of those bodies against the puppet to overpower it. It was… foolish, although admittedly a better plan than he had used against the Witch King.
The screech from the puppet was damaging, but Randidly ignored it and focused on his hands. Very rapidly, the numb pins and needles feeling was receding, leaving his hands once more in a whole condition. Acri buzzed with pressure and slithered down his arm to form the straight form of his spear once more. Randidly chuckled softly, feeling the glee of Acri. Although he didn’t obtain any experience from these strikes against the puppets and therefore couldn’t grow, it was the first time that the substance of Acri had really been tested.
This, finally, was a challenge to the intelligent spear.
Skarch was clearing an easy path through the Wights some distance away, but the remnants of those ranks were reforming and moving on to threaten Randidly. Snorting, Randidly spun Acri to test out the state of his hands. The puppet of the Propagator was straightening slowly, and before it could respond Randidly moved like a cold wind among the 20 or so nearby Wights.
One raised its arm and a ghastly claw condensed above it, but Randidly cut sharply left and avoiding its slash. He Countered with a stab the thrust Acri through the skull of the Wight, abruptly ending its life. Five bolts of Psychic Poison rushed at his back but Randidly used Phantom Half-Step to appear in the middle of the group.
Acri was like children’s laughter and temptation; it spread wildly and could kill gods.
These Wights were much less than that.
With a bounding leap, the Propagator's puppet rushed towards Randidly. There was a projected fury in its movements, but Randidly was all too aware of the gaze of that strange crystalline beetle that formed the true body of the Propagator.
Although he wasn’t sure of how it would work, it became clear to Randidly that this was the body that he needed to target with his Breath of the Spear Phantom Skill.
However, that strange body the beetle was walking on was slowly reforming. And every time Randidly tried to target the beetle, his focused slid strangely sideways towards the body.
The flesh of it was slowly regrowing, and the body regarded Randidly with bright eyes.
As the puppet crashed into the ground around Randidly, he rushed forward between its wide legs. Instantly, it spun on its hands, swiping at him. Randidly wasn’t sure if it was just his focus or the effect of the crown, but it was simple to weave through the thing's quick movements. Although it could reach a high top speed, it didn’t possess a great ability to change its direction easily.
It roared again, furious, and Randidly stopped underneath its legs and thrust upwards with Acri, using the Inevitable Phantom Arrives. The chilling form of Randidly’s mother floated behind him, its gaze locked on the puppet. With a huge crash, Randidly’s attack struck the puppet and chipped a huge piece off of its leg.
Within the next second, Randidly was forced to use When a Shadow Departs, Fireflies Dance to avoid the puppet when it simply dropped its body in an attempt to crush him. The fireflies wandered around and landed on the puppet, but Randidly was well aware that the damage that they could do to it was almost negligible.
Not that his damage appeared to be any better…
After a quick landing, Randidly hopped upwards to land on top of the puppet. Its body twisted as its arms folded back on themselves to grab at him, but Randidly ignored it and slashed Acri down at the body of the puppet. Just scratches emerged, however. Although it wasn’t surprising, it was somewhat frustrating that Randidly had no real way to inflict damage on this thing, especially with his Mana depleted.
It was perhaps foolish, but Randidly couldn’t fault himself for unleashing his Skill immediately upon sensing where the mass of Aether was centered. After all, how could he know that the thing would fucking live through it without a scratch? Although he had burnt off that host's body’s bottom half, as Randidly watched…
It was growing back.
The hands smashed into the location where Randidly just was, causing the puppet to howl again. Randidly’s eye narrowed as he landed on the ground and looked around. It seemed the puppet couldn’t utilize its large sonic burst unless it was standing, which was at least something-
His head jerked back as a hand stabbed past the bridge of his nose. Randidly’s eyes narrowed as he took in the form of the Propagator’s host body that had appeared in front of him. This level of speed… definitely, he needed to fall back.
The thing twisted and smashed a heel into Randidly’s back, sending him tumbling forward. The force was overwhelming. Randidly couldn’t control himself as he smashed into the large puppet.
It scrambled around and twisted, surging around Randidly’s body like a python, attempting to get a grip on him.
With air wheezing out of his mouth, Randidly activated When a Shadow Departs, Fireflies Dance. His body rushed forward out of the encircling limbs, but that host puppet was waiting for him outside of the range of the large puppet. Its eyes were glowing mauve now, and visibly its hair was growing out in that shade. It was curly and stopped at the shoulders and as soon as the hair ceased growing, the eyes seemed to refocus.
“Hooooo, that was surprising. What sort of creature are you, boy?”
Something clicked in Randidly, and he blurted out. “You… you’re like Lucretia.”
This gave the Propagator a second of pause. And looking at her healing form, it was easy to see the resemblance to Lucretia. She had the same colored hair and matching eyes, and the same unnaturally pale skin. It seemed that the Propagator in front of him fixated on the name instantly, with her eyes narrowing.
“Worm, how do you know-” It began, but Randidly’s crown released a huge pulse of power that he had built up in the brief interim. The Propagator’s words were cut off and he felt some of the strange vibrations that were pressing up against his skin lessen. That sharpened his perspective.
Was it perhaps possible that the way the Propagator controlled its puppets was through the use of sound waves…? And the puppets themselves acted like amps and therefore targeting them with Breath of the Spear Phantom was a dangerous proposition. The feedback from stifling the larger puppets for just a second was enough to pop a lung, but perhaps the crystalline beetle itself…
Still, when the large puppet slashed outward with is hand Randidly was forced to dodge. But his eyes remained on the host body. It was a good thing too because the body came forward with its hands raised. The fearful part was that there didn’t appear to be any Skills in use from this thing. He tried to dodge, but its speed was beyond belief. It just rawly scratched at Randidly with enough force to rip deep rivets in Sulfur.
Sulfur, for its part, was just as excited as Acri had been, but this was a manic excitement that had Randidly deeply worried. Sulfur grew off of pressure, and this physical presence was undoubtedly a boon for it. However… these strikes were too devastating to just consider training. How many more could land and consider the armor uninjured…?
Randidly was stuck between a rock and a hard place, however. The large puppet had positioned itself behind him, while the host body advanced relentlessly towards Randidly.
“You have my attention,” The body hissed at him. “And I’ll have the answers one way or another.”
Then it moved, and this time Randidly barely got a Phantom Half-Step off in time to pull himself a dozen meters to the side. Instantly, he leaped towards the foot soldier Wight he had targeted with the Skill and stabbed his spear through its chest and twisted. A headache was building behind his eyes as Randidly was forced to up the Perception boost of the Crown in order to compete with the host body.
The Randidly swore because one of the other large puppets turned from its struggle against Azriel and smashed its hand downwards in an overhead blow towards Randidly’s position. When the Shadows Depart, FIreflies Dance carried him out of the physical shockwave, but it gave the other large puppet time to get into position.
As Randidly turned, he was hit in the chest with the sonic attack with enough force for Sulfur to groan painfully. Staggering backward, Randidly rapidly attempted to sharpen his Perception. Even with the effect of the SIlence from his crown, it was still this powerful…?
At the last second, he caught the small noise of a step and jerked backward. The host body of the Propagator seemed to materialize in front of him, and the body looked rather puzzled that its attack had missed. Randidly’s Idiosyncratic Cut slashed off several curly mauve hairs, but Acri did little damage against its skin.
Abruptly, Randidly was very conscious of how low his Health was. He was healing rapidly, but this thing could hurt him quickly, from too many directions. And looming above that fear was the realization that the Propagator had some sort of Skills it could use. And with these base stats… now was not the time for a confrontation.
Ready to leave? Randidly asked as he used Wild Phantom’s Embrace to use the momentum from another attack from a large puppet to leap backward. Azriel assented, and appeared next to him in a crimson streak.
“Trying to leave? Childish. Domain… Realm of the Crystal Spires!”