Randidly crashed to the ground, his head throbbing in something near agony. The Crown of Upheaval and Silence hung heavy above him. Although the Mana potions he had would restore his Mana, it didn’t restore something intangible. And as Randidly abused his body more and more by pumping it full of Mana Potions, he knew that he was nearing a dead end of a health outcome.
But it was difficult to value those possible future problems when the constant threat of death was hanging over him. Although he had pushed himself up to Level 34, Randidly had on several occasions come very close to dying. More times than he wanted to remember he had been doused with Psychic Poison while taking on a group of Wights that was just a little too large. Perhaps if he had not experienced the existential ripping that had happened during Ashes to Ashes, he would have collapsed then.
Randidly continued forward, always fighting. It reminded him of his previous time on Tellus, where Shal took him into the prison. That dullness on his mind, that focus to the detriment of all else… It brought him a bit of nostalgia as Randidly rushed forward into the small forest near the river and grabbed it with plant dominance. Instantly the forest exploded into a death trap for Wights, with roots and flowers ripping them apart.
As soon as he began cutting through the Wights, there was a roar and Randidly looked sharply up. Narrowing his eyes, he felt the tingle of danger from his Crown. Whoever was coming meant business. Then Randidly placed the sound and he straightened and grinned.
A Witch King.
It had not been long in terms of days, but Randidly had fought himself to exhaustion more times than he could count in that span. His days were consumed by pushing his battle senses towards the limit and discovering the best way for him to fight. In that time, even if his stats hadn’t increased overmuch, his Skill Levels and surely his effectiveness in using them shot upwards.
In addition, Randidly was much more firmly sure of his own strategy in fighting than he had been in the past. He would not get into a contest of Strength with a Witch King.
The Witch King roared in the distance again, and Randidly’s Crown trembled underneath the explosion of ill will. It seemed that the Witch King was aware of him due to the Crown and its influence, and was primarily responding to that rather than the death of its subordinates. Honestly, it made little difference to Randidly.
He used When Shadows Depart, Fireflies Dance to move deeper into the forest and then leaned against a tree. Through it, thick roots of golden energy flowed upward into his body, replenishing him. After the mad rush here, Randidly needed it.
But he only had above 20 seconds before the Witch King’s huge Spectral Claws ripped apart the nearby treeline. The familiar frame stalked forward, tall and almost hunched as it peered around for the source of the Silence effect. Compared to normal Wights, Witch Kings were taller and longer limbed. Their bodies were made out of a darker material and their cloaks seemed even more amorphous and insubstantial, resulting in strange shadows becoming clear underneath the cloak.
It spread its arms wide and Spectral Claws condensed ultra fast. Randidly raised his spear to meet it.
Spear Advances, Ash Trails.
His explosive assault slipped him underneath the attacks of the Spectral Claws and Randidly smashed his spear into the Witch King’s chest. The Witch King took a step back, but only one.
Lighting quick, the Witch King spun and smashed him backward with a lashing kick. Randidly winced but landed well enough to reset his stance. But the Witch King simply raised its finger and pointed at Randidly.
With a grimace, Randidly staggered backward. But it seemed that the huge boost he received to Vitality gave him enough gumption to forcibly withstand the strange Skill that the Witch King employed to decimate foes instantly from a distance.
Something changed in the Witch King’s eyes when Randidly managed to stay upright through the Skill. Its warped and bony face twisted further into something akin to a smile. “Yesss…. You are the one.”
Psychic Poison exploded outward from the Witch King in a wave and Randidly instantly screened it away with a Wall of Thorns. This cut off both of their vision, and Randidly dashed sideways, looking for a small advantage to seize. Against an opponent of this caliber, every little bit helped.
The Wall of Thorns was blown away in an explosion of force from the Witch King’s body, and it moved with deceptive grace as it loped towards Randidly. Spinning his spear, Randidly turned to meet the Witch King while activating Wild Phantom’s Embrace. The flows of force around the Witch King’s body were extremely turbulent, but Randidly narrowed his eyes and focused.
Compared to Azriel, who moved while barely disturbing the flows of force in the surrounding air, this thing was a hurricane walking. Once more, it created Spectral Claws and slashed forward. But Randidly was too close and had to follow the blowing forces around the attack to dodge.
When he planted his feet once more, another kick was waiting from the Witch King. It caught Randidly in the chest, but he unleashed three Incendiary Eruptions beneath the Witch King. As Randidly flew backward to crash through several trees, the Witch King screamed in agony, raising its mouth to the sky. Again, Randidly’s Crown trembled.
But his will stayed firm, and he pressed his will downwards on the Witch King to exacerbate the effect. It turned its hateful eyes and regarded him.
Its finger flashed forward and Randidly used When a Shadow Departs, Fireflies Dance to move rapidly sideways out of the way from the finger Skill. But it turned out that was a mistake, because the Witch King charged him with its hands raised to attack.
As the Sun Stills.
Heavy as a collapsing sun, Randidly’s spear swung around to meet the Witch King. But his attack swung harmlessly by the Witch King, which had stopped and was studying Randidly. Unprepared for the weight of his own attack missing, Randidly took a step to the side to keep his balance.
For which he was blasted in the face with a concentrated dose of Psychic Poison.
Instinctually, Randidly threw himself backward and activated Phantom Half-Step to create distance, which was the only reason that he wasn’t shredded by the follow-up attack. The pain from the Mana exhaustion seemed to combine with this new internal weakness and agony to scratch and claw at his will.
Randidly didn’t have the attention to watch where he was going and his back smashed into a tree. The thing toppled on top of him, but he didn’t have the focus to push it aside. Everything was muddled and thick. His Crown flickered in and out of existence.
Gritting his teeth, Randidly forced his gaze to focus on the form of the Witch King rushing towards him. But from the side, a streak of crimson shot towards it. Even faster than Randidly, the Witch King noticed the new attacker and pointed, but the streak accelerated.
It smashed into the Witch King’s side, glanced off, and settled into the panting form of Azriel. Her eyes were bright, and she raised her needle spear. “Can you slow it down?”
Randidly just grunted and closed his eyes. Aether burst through his system, cleansing the remnants of the Psychic Poison. Once more, the Crown of Upheaval and Silence appeared above him. Its influence spread outwards, restraining the Witch King slightly and sharpening Randidly’s awareness.
The Witch King hissed, but Randidly was already rushing towards the opponent. Lock it down, huh?
Randidly activated Spearing Roots, but like he expected the Witch King basically ignored the attack and lashed out at Randidly’s approaching for. Quick as the devil, Randidly twisted around and activated Wild Phantom’s Embrace. Acri lashed out but the Witch King was even faster than Randidly expected. It avoided the attack and thrust its fingers out in a knife blow towards Randidly’s side.
Once more, he activated Wild Phantom’s Embrace and flowed out of the way of the attack. This time, however, Azriel was there, a ray of red light that smashed into the Witch King’s side. Hissing again, it seemed to pause as it considered the two individuals that it was fighting. But by that point, Randidly had landed and hit it in the side of the head with an Idiosyncratic Cut. The attack left a gash on its face, but it was only superficial.
Still, Azriel had hit twice more in that time.
Spectral Claws formed mid-air to cut her to pieces, but somehow that crimson streak moved through the attacks without a care. She paused then, and Randidly noticed something off about Azriel. There was… a strange light around her. It reminded him how there was a glow about the moon as it sat in the night sky, as its light was refracted as it traveled through the air.
The two groups considered each other. The Witch King was between Randidly and Azriel, so Randidly gathered his will and activated Cruel Indignation of Yggdrasil. The air rippled and roiled, visibly shivering at the cruel touch of his will. It seemed that for several long seconds, the Witch King was grinding its teeth together as it considered them. But then it screamed and leaped backward away from the two of them.
The two stayed where they were.
After the Witch King had retreated, Azriel sighed. “Killing it… still a little much for us. Short by almost 50 Skill Levels. Maybe closer to 100.”
Randidly could only nod. Because he knew that if this was how it fought casually, it probably had a few more Skills for when it became serious. Shaking his head, Randidly turned and looked towards the remnants of Skarch’s squad. Skarch herself was standing at the edge of the river, looking for answers in her reflection. There were deep bags under her eyes.
“We will get another shot,” Randidly said. “For now… let’s clean up.”