It wasn’t about the pain, Randidly realized as he hopped back to avoid a rippling wave of heat that Aegiant released as a quick follow up attack. What really pierced through his ability to shrug off and into Randidly’s core was how lightly he was treating this whole experience on Tellus.
Aether constructs surrounded his body, trying to make sense of how to reconstruct his arm.
Yes, this wasn’t Earth. But that shouldn’t have been any sort of reason to let down his guard. These fighters were much stronger than anything Randidly was likely to face on Earth. As such, he should have been so much more cautious than he had been. Likely, his time in the under Level 25 Tournament dulled his sense of danger.
Randidly landed, his arm throbbing with a tragic ache. Aether flowed through him in icy-hot wisps, spiraling around the wound as it began to feed the regrowth of the arm. It seemed that the System had a strange layer of Aether that covered every inch of the body. Once there was a defect, as there was now, those pieces of Aether that were still attached to the prior flesh were drawn back to Randidly, probably to form a template.
Of course, his arm had just been annihilated. So the Aether that had formed him was drifting about in broken wisps to settle on the surrounding ground. If he had a single second to focus and draw those Aether constructs back to himself-
Which, Randidly reflected, was extremely unlikely. He spared a single glance to look down at the cauterized wound with a grimace.
Obviously, he couldn’t afford to spare too much time to examine the process; as long as Aegiant pursued him, he would need to rely on the System’s natural healing process. For all that it might take far too long.
“And now you die, boy,” Aegiant roared as he rushed forward with a raised spear.
As he often did in those long empty stretches between two high-stress moments, Randidly closed his eyes. Inside himself, he could clearly feel the raging flow of Aether and meaning that connected him to Alana. In truth, he had relied on and supported that very connection most of them all. Alana didn’t retreat. She didn’t allow nonsense. She identified her foes and took them down.
But to be fair, sometimes you faced foes that were beyond you in strength. At that time, you couldn’t stubbornly continue to try the same methods. After a moment of hesitation, Randidly reached out and touched that river of meaning.
There was a moment where Randidly was literally jolted by the sudden intimacy to Alana; at this very moment, she was struggling with a similar decision. On Earth.
Across worlds and situations, they both looked down at a losing hand and considered their next move. In the brief moment of insight, Randidly couldn’t sense much of the detail of what was happening. But he could sense how worried Alana was.
There is no shame in being the weaker party, Randidly thought as their two minds touched. He felt her attention fasten on his own. There is only foolishness if you continue to insist you are not.
There was a brief flash of confusion from Alana, and then a wall of resolve that instantly firmed in her chest; she had made her decision.
Just as quickly as it had happened, the connection was broken and Randidly’s eyes flashed open. Aegiant howled with glee, riding on the heat of a burning star. Randidly breathed in slowly.
He held that breath with burning emerald eyes.
Breath of the Spear Phantom.
As the attack crashed down, Randidly activated Wild Phantom’s Embrace and allowed the domineering blow to throw him across the plaza. Unfortunately, the momentum was so much that Randidly couldn’t control it; he crashed into a lava fountain. The molten rock exploded out in a wave. Most of it landed on Sulfur, but some hit Randidly’s exposed skin. Especially his bare feet.
It burned like a fucking bitch. Wincing, Randidly straightened. It certainly hurt, but not as much as the throbbing of his missing limb-
Randidly gritted his teeth as his lungs were battered by Aegiant struggling to breathe. To Randidly’s surprise, Aegiant stopped dead when he failed, glaring at the ground in confusion across the plaza. Underneath Aegiant’s feet, the ground warped and began to melt under the barrage of heat. Then, as if suddenly remembering who Randidly had learned to use the spear from, Aegiant’s eyes cut upward to Randidly’s.
Aegiant opened his mouth to speak, but Randidly simply endured the internal struggle.
Which left Aegiant simply staring at Randidly, his image flagging as his confusion prevented him from focusing on it.
Shocking, isn’t it? Randidly thought grimly. I cannot compete with you in terms of Skill Levels or how refined my image is… but I’m damn close to closing the stats gap, aren’t I?
This was how you broke a stronger enemy. You isolated them, endured them, outlasted them. You struck how they least expected it.
Emerald flame began to dance up and down Randidly’s body. Soon, he became an incarnation of flame that produced enough heat that the spurting lava around him continued to be liquid. Aegiant gnashed his teeth in rage and broke the ground underneath him with a pulse of power.
Almost beyond Randidly’s notice, there was a slight gravitational pull emerging from Aegiant. His sun image even had its own gravitational field, huh…?
Out of the molten ground behind Randidly, he summoned a large, humming world core. Influence of the Molten Core quickly counterbalanced the gravitational pull. It was small, but if Randidly lost track of it mid-fight, that pull would come back to bite him.
Summon Lava Golem. Randidly thought, and a dozen figures climbed out of the lava around him. Very soon, they ignited and were covered in emerald flames. The figures circled around Randidly, attempting to confuse Aegiant’s sight, but it didn’t seem to fool him; Aegiant’s eyes remained fixed on Randidly.
Randidly grinned. Fine then.
All of the figures around Randidly exploded into motion. They dashed toward a glowering Aegiant even as Randidly felt another hammering blow against the hold he had over Aegiant’s lungs.
Although the lava golems weren’t particularly fast, when Randidly fueled them directly with his energy, they could move more quickly than seemed possible. Bits of molten metal dispersed as they sprinted toward Aegiant. He opened his mouth in a silent howl and beams of light shot outward to pierce through the chests of the lava golems.
About half of them dodged, even as Randidly folded his arms and watched from afar. If Aegiant was content fighting against the avatars, then there was no point in heading over to enter the fray himself. Too much risk. Besides…
It gave him a moment to reach out and feel the Aether constructs that constituted his arms. Even now, they were continuing to disperse. Randidly could sense how the process was slowing; there was a draw that would eventually pull them back to his arm. And until he had the template for his body back, he would just stockpile Aether with nowhere to-
Randidly’s attention snapped back to the battle. The other half of the lava golems rushed forward with wild gesticulations and lashed out at Aegiant. They weren’t even very near to them, but Randidly had stored some of his Ignition of the Emerald Essence in them. Some raised their stubby arms and shot off Ignition Bolts. Others began to glow as they charged up Verdant Nova.
But none of it mattered. There was a dull rumbled as Aegiant simply raised and lowered his arms in silent exaltation, and the ground beneath him shattered. The lava golems were crushed like bugs. And then he exploded into motion.
Right toward Randidly.
Grim-faced, Randidly endured another attack on Breath of the Spear Phantom and activated the Crown of Cataclysm and Gloom. This was exactly what Randidly was worried about. The height of Aegiant’s strength wasn’t something that he could afford to underestimate.
Instantly, the blurred figured of Aegiant sharpened into crystal clear relief. His expression was filled with barely controlled violence and fury, and Randidly felt a small sliver of fear as that figure shot directly toward him.
There is no shame in being the weaker party. There is only foolishness if you continue to insist you are not.
As Aegiant smashed into the area in front of Randidly, he was met with a veritable sea of Reach of the Jade Slags. The dark claws of jade twisted upward and slashed at his body, one after the other. Heat exploded out to meet them, and they warped and sagged until they weren’t even an attack any longer.
Randidly was moving backward in the aftermath, but Aegiant shot a sunbeam at him with unerring accuracy and swiftness. Light made the distance almost irrelevant. Such was the speed of the beam that Randidly could only turn slightly so that the blow wasn’t a direct hit.
Still, Randidly’s ribs cracked painfully as the beam struck him. Immediately afterward, Aegiant tried to break the Breath of the Spear Phantom, but Randidly was ready for it and fired off several Ignition Bolts to blind and distract Aegiant.
They didn't work as well as Randidly had hoped. Aegiant was already moving toward the spot where Randidly had landed and stumbled. Gritting his teeth, Randidly reached out and set up several Earthquakes, with the plaza as the spot where they would all intersect. It would take a few seconds but-
Unfortunately, Randidly didn’t have a few seconds.
The spot where he had just been collapsed in a spray of lava and annihilated rock as Aegiant arrived with inhuman speed and simply struck with his spear. Randidly wasn’t sure if his image-based attacks had been used to give him a false sense of the timing, but it had worked like a charm. With no other option, Randidly activated All is Ash.
Randidly condensed once more from ash with a chunk of his Mana missing, even as emerald fire gathered in his one good hand like a gauntlet.
With its base tied around his waist, Acri straightened and lashed out at Aegiant as the man ripped over to strike again at Randidly. Sneering, Aegiant ignored it and continued his attack. Randidly summoned as many instances of Verdant Nova as he could manage, his Mana dropping at a horrifying rate.
Acri slashed out and hit Aegiant right wrist. The blow was so light compared to Aegiant’s freight train that it just seemed to brush against his arm. Aegiant’s smile widened.
Even though it wasn’t enough to completely smash Aegiant’s attack aside, Randidly burned his Stamina just as quickly as his Mana to knock the attack off target. Then all the Verdant Nova’s he was charging exploded, the force directly smashing into Aegiant’s smug face.