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A note from puddles4263

8/14

Ace sat transfixed, staring up at the conjured monster that floated above the arena. Its roars had enough force to shake him down to his bones. He felt incredibly insignificant, sitting before this wild beast that darkened the sky.

And then it summoned almost a hundred blades of ash to scythe down toward the Squads that had dared stand before it.

Ace’s heart was pounding. It felt like the darkness in his heart had seen a kindred spirit for the first time since it had taken root there. No, it was even more monumental than that.

His darkness looked out at this terrible spirit that Randidly could conjure and realized that it, too, could be physically present upon this Earth. It was not relegated to a constant spiritual role. With the proper preparation… the image of Ace’s darkness could condense into something tangible and gain the ability to attack.

The arena was covered in screams as the groups struggled to withstand the blades of ash. Ace narrowed his eyes.

Those nearby to Randidly were absolutely ripped to shreds, their armor and Skills forcibly broken by the power of his strikes. Yet Ace didn’t miss that the nearby ash blades struck first. It was only after the more distant groups witnessed those close to Randidly being decimated that their own guillotines began to descend.

...so it’s not a limitless power, huh… but still… Ace thought wistfully. Still, it was more than enough to warp the world. And compared to what Donnyton could accomplish…

It seemed that the leader of the Squads noticed the same thing that Ace did. “Don’t waver! Only the close strikes are powerful! We can wear him down!”

But her warning came a bit too late. Some of the surrounding groups were cut down as they panicked in response to the ashen blade. Not a large amount, but enough that another chunk of the Squads’ power was cut away by Randidly.

Their blood splattered on the ground, strangely vibrant in the gloom cast by the huge phantom that hovered over them all. Yet now that Ace knew what he was looking for, he could see small traces of energy spiraling upward to be absorbed by the phantom. When it roared again, the very air seemed to vibrate.

It’s getting stronger, Ace realized.

“Damnit, we can’t-” The leader bellowed. Ace reflected that he should call jinx on her. It seemed like their minds were following the same track. “Dev? Something big. Don’t hold anything back.”

“Got it,” The darkness wielding mage said grimly. He raised his hands and began to gather motes of pure obsidian that condensed out of the surrounding air.

Unfortunately for them, Randidly also noticed this point of resistance. Instantly, his body blurred forward, not toward them, but toward the largest grouping of remaining troops the Squads had. Cursing, those melee fighters gathered together in a shield wall and lowered their stances. Their weapons were poised, ready to strike when they slowed him down enough to reach him.

At the last second before Randidly reached the group, he stepped sharply to the left and disappeared. In a concussive blast, he reappeared twenty meters to the right, back in the direction of the leader and the shadow mage, perhaps ten meters to the side.

As Randidly appeared, the leader had already lowered her shoulder and charged toward Randidly’s position with her wickedly sharp battleax. “Did you think we couldn’t figure out your tricks by watching?!?”

To Ace’s surprise, she was fast. Much faster than he would have believed from her broad shoulders. She had just about reached Randidly when he took another sharp step, this time accelerating in the direction that he was already going. Such was the speed of acceleration that the cloud of ash around him was left in the dust.

The connection between them grew taut, and then Randidly disappeared once more. Ace’s expression turned very serious.

More than the image… wasn’t this mobility something that was impossible to deal with…?

Randidly appeared back amongst the group that had gathered together to defend against him and then relaxed as he departed. Catching them unawares, both the melee range and the long-distance Skill users were leveled before they could react.

Thirty people were incapacitated in that whirlwind of blades.

In the sky, the phantom howled and brought its maroon dagger fingers down in a wicked slash. The leader raised her ax to block and yelped as she was smashed backward. She rolled for almost ten seconds, struggling to control her momentum. The attack also left extremely deep gouges in the surface of the arena.

But at that moment, the shadow mage raised his hands and unleashed an ebony blast of power up toward the phantom.

With a screech, Randidly’s terrible monster brought its claws down toward the blast of energy.

BOOOM.

The collision shook the arena, waves of dark power reverberation throughout the area. People screamed as a portion of the crowd was hit with the shockwave, but a spectral snake appeared from the VIP section and dissipated the remaining energy with a swing of its tail.

Glendel had to move, huh… Ace thought with a grin. Honestly, he quite enjoyed the feeling of that power smashing against him. It was a like a light slap, just enough to wake him up and get his heart pounding.

If anything, the main other effect of the attack was to darken the sky even further. Whereas the ash Randidly’s phantom made seemed to have dissipated, it was replaced by the shiny blackness that the shadow mage created.

But very soon, a gasp rose up from among the audience as the darkness faded and the great phantom once more condensed above them all. It raised its head to the sky and roared again, seeming to challenge all of Donnyton to come at it. It was invincible. They hadn’t managed to wound it at all.

And the audience had no answer to that.

Ace’s eyes narrowed. But it’s not like we didn’t learn anything from that, right Donnyton? I hope your next group shows us something a bit more interesting.

It took a further five minutes of struggle before the remaining members of Donnyton’s Squads were willing to concede. The greataxe wielding leader was particularly determined, ignoring her wounds and lashing out at Randidly as long as she could. Eventually, however, her body gave out on her and she collapsed in a pool of her own blood.

Which meant the current record for how long a group of two hundred people could stand against Donnyton was about six minutes.

*****

“Did you see that?” Alana asked.

Isabella nodded. “The Skill displaced his image. It was so powerful that-”

“Power this, power that…” Alana waved her hand irritably. “Stop focusing so much on power. This is not a fight where you should ever be challenging Randidly Ghosthound to a duel of power.”

Isabella’s expression was frosty. “I have the utmost confidence in defeating someone who relies on power.”

Hank chuckled and Glendel winced. Alana just sighed inwardly. Damnit, I know some lessons you can only learn the hard way, but… Girl, I don’t want to see Randidly slit your stomach open and leave you bleeding out like a gutted fish…

“Don’t worry, Miss Donal,” Pan said. He stepped forward and put his hand on his sister’s shoulder. “We know our business. When it comes to fighting, we won’t take any chances. Donnyton’s reputation is at stake.”

To that, Alana could only grudgingly nod. She had faced the two of them before, after all. She knew how capable they were. Even though they hadn’t yet crossed the threshold of Level 50, they were able to fight against monsters that neared Level 60. With their leadership and talent, they were slowly gathering supporters amongst the Squads.

Alana saw Mrs. Hamilton beaming behind them, hiding a smile behind her head. I get it, they are the next generation. But you know…

Alana turned and looked out toward the arena. Randidly was walking calmly back to stand at his side of the arena, sitting down to rest and meditate. Do you really think that the current generation is ready to step aside…? And also…

Alana’s hand-formed into claws. For just a second, she unleashed that tightly controlled killing intent she held in her chest. This was the first time she had ever unleashed it purposefully against a person, but when she did, Randidly only looked up and smiled.

His gaze seemed to beckon her forward. Even now, he was dutifully making himself into a monster so that Alana could throw herself at him without worry of killing him. And for that, she was eternally grateful.

And also… I’m not the strongest in Donnyton for nothing. This sort of opponent… Randidly Ghosthound, I’ve been waiting for this. Don’t disappoint me by stumbling too early.

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puddles4263

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