Truly, standing before this image is an entirely different experience… Alana thought through gritted teeth. Even at this distance, the ambient energy it was throwing off was like standing before a wide-open oven. Compared to that, her own attempts at contesting the energy were minuscule.
As she pulled energy from her connection with Randidly through her Class and Fate, she was able to generate the swirl of energy that would disperse his ambient image in the area. Or rather, it pushed it away, quite like a child throwing a tantrum would drag its tired parents. In order to not be warped, Randidly’s image retreated slightly in front of her explosion of energy. But although it was simple in practice, actually maintaining that state was a struggle.
Especially because Alana could feel the focus of the image shifting to her, beginning to press down on her measly smokescreen. Although the parents will give the child space for a little while, it had now reached the point that it crossed their bottom line. As such, the weight of discipline pressed downward.
“How long can you hold out?” Mrs. Hamilton asked.
Long enough to fight Randidly, Alana thought. But her mouth said, “Maybe fifteen minutes. And I can only assist in the area around me. From farther away…”
“Truly, this boy is a monster,” Mrs. Hamilton remarked. Then she shook her head, and Alana followed her gaze to the twelve strange minions that Randidly summoned. They were rapidly gaining speed, charging toward Donnyton’s group. “Dozer! Stop them dead.”
As Alana watched them, she felt a small spark of curiosity. Although there were fifty people in Donnyton’s group, these twelve summons were sent by Randidly directly at them. It was like he was asking for them to be destroyed.
Immediately, Alana began to suspect that there were more to this group of calvary that could be easily discovered.
“Gladly.” Dozer said as he strode forward with his long club slung across his shoulders. At his side, almost ten equally large and muscular individuals followed him, forming an intimidating front line. Of the Raid Groups, Dozers had locked up the most spots by far. Although the images that Randidly produced were powerful, those stoic individuals simply endured them with patience and a tolerance for pain.
They quickly formed up into a group, raising their weapons as Randidly’s Riders approached. Other elite members of the Raid Squads gathered, preparing to mop up the remnants after Dozer’s team struck.
Behind the front line, Clarissa and Annie began rapidly rain projectiles over toward the charging forces. The three mages that Clarissa brought also began to throw spears of earth and bolts of fire. Soon, the air was filled with whizzing projectiles.
Rather than slow, Randidly’s summons just weaved through the strikes in near silence. Alana’s eyes narrowed. The weird tapping noise made by the approaching twelve was surprisingly light, belying the ominous aura that they produced as they moved in perfect formation.
Above all of it, the towering form of that tree continued to oppress the people from Donnyton like a physical weight. Flexing her hands, Alana channeled more energy through herself, generating more interference. But suddenly, she feared her prediction had been optimistic.
As Dozer raised his weapon to meet the lead rider, a wave of crimson energy blasted outward from the formation. Like a knife in the dark, Helen spun between the two lead riders and turned into a barely visible blur as she dashed forward. Within a second, a spear shot forward toward Dozer. Yet speed at this level wasn’t enough.
Alana’s eyes flashed and she rushed forward, interposing herself between the two. After waiting for so long, she felt a thrill at the impending violence. Finally, time to go wild.
Dozer’s calm eyes measured Helen’s attack and then Alana’s intervention, before finally taking no action toward them. He raised his club higher, preparing to smash the first wave of riders to a pulp as though the two women weren’t about to clash only a meter in front of him.
Even as Alana felt Helen’s spear trajectory in response to her presence, Alana snorted coldly. Alana was not one who often used fancy moves, but in terms of basics, no one in Donnyton had performed the reliable Skills as much as she had; this sort of improvisation would not fly.
Around them, the two forces remained in tense silence as they careened toward each other. Only the crash and boom of projectiles and the tapping of the mount’s feet broke the silence. It seemed that no one seemed to breathe.
With a quick move, Alana cut off Helen’s attack. Yet Alana immediately felt Helen notice her adjustment and then spin out of the way, relying on the power of her Domain to quicken the move to the point that Alana couldn’t follow it. Once more, the woman became a blur.
It seemed that up close, the image was even more difficult to resist. Helen’s crimson waves were crashing against the orange, dust-filled winds that Alana created. The density was quickly increasing, displacing Alana’s interference. But it did seem like that then magnified the effect on Randidly’s tree.
For a split second, that blur seemed about to shoot past her and crash into Dozer’s line. But then Alana simply sidestepped and slammed her shoulder into Helen, sending the other woman stumbling.
“I’m your opponent,” Alana said coldly, all of the frustration she felt over this assignment focusing toward this talented young woman that had appeared with Randidly when he returned. It was due to her presence that she was stuck with this shit assignment. As she raised her spear, Alana reflected that the best she could do was finish this immediately.
Then, in the next moment, everything was drowned out in the crash of metal as Dozer’s compatriots and the riders smashed into each other. Axes and lances blurred toward each other in an elaborate dance. The taps of the mount's legs accelerated into a staccato beat as they adjusted for the collision.
Then the two lines hit each other, both sides striking out to wound and main. Unfortunately for Alana, she didn’t allow herself to look up at the surrounding battle. Her focus was on only one foe.
As Alana took several steps forward to cut off Helen’s path of retreat, she was surprised to hear Dozer grunt in pain behind her. Despite her earlier focus, she paused. Then she once more heard the rapid taps coming from the mounts, followed by several loan moans and grunts of pain.
Looking over her shoulder, Alana witnessed the strange mounts of these riders twisting expertly out of the way of Dozer’s blow, then scuttle forward in the small gap created while thrusting a spear into Dozer’s shoulder. Around him, Dozer’s companions suffered similarly, with the mounts sometimes lightly hopping and pressing themselves off a neighbors weapon to obtain a better angle.
The whole thing was so quick and natural that it was mind-boggling. It was only as the second line of Donnyton’s forces hurried forward that they were able to slow and surround the riders. Without the benefit of their preternatural flexibility, their flawless defense began to weaken.
Alana’s eyes narrowed. Not the brute force types then. Agility-based riders. Dangerous, but not impossible to handle.
“Absolute Zero!” Immediately, Clarissa moved forward and blasted the area with a wave of cold that afflicted both the riders and Dozer’s crew alike. However, while the humans simply shrugged off the powerful restrictive effect, the riders seemed physically slowed to the point that the surrounding elites could wound them.
Very quickly, individuals from Alana’s and Donny’s Raid Squads worked together and inflicted several small blows on the legs of the mount, eliciting high pitched screams. It also seemed that these beings were relatively fragile. Alana confidently turned her attention back to Helen and thrust forward with the spear. At this rate-
Randidly’s voice sent chills down Alana’s spine.
“Did you all truly forget about me?”
The ground began to rumble, then hundreds of razor-sharp roots pierced upward out of the ground and into the legs of the individuals that were attempting to slow down the riders. Quick as a flash, Ptolemy was among them, rapidly healing the damage done. But as quick as Ptolemy was there, the riders were quicker.
With impossibly light leaps, they bypassed the encirclement and began to dash rapidly forward toward the backlines of Donnyton’s forces.
Helen regarded Alana warily, spinning her spear. “I’ll fight you later. Right now, Dozer-”
Once she falls, I can finally fight him. Alana blurred forward, unleashing three quick thrusts toward Helen. Grimacing, Helen could only scramble backward, allowing the attacks to rip deep gashes in her Domain. It wasn’t just her spear that Alana struck with either; the more she used it, the more familiar she became with the strange energy she was capable of generating by vibrating her Class.
Very quickly, it was easy to see how much power she could generate by relying on this extremely primitive version of an image. Although those gashes healed quickly, Alana was rapidly learning how to use those gashes to herd Helen back toward Randidly. As long as she forced the two images close together, they would rapidly be forced to reveal some real potential to break out of Donnyton’s trap.
And if Alana could finish Helen off quickly enough, then Randidly-
More screams erupted behind her as another wave of roots ripped upward. Alana leaned backward, allowing one vicious specimen to leave a small gash on the inside of her thigh and then pass right in front of her face. She directed that orange energy downward, and she stomped her feet.
Immediately, the surrounding ground was filled with that energy, destroying Randidly’s Skill, at least temporarily. But although she was able to withstand the Skill, the other Donnyton elites were also being harried by the riders; they weren’t able to cope at all.
“I suppose we will have to be your opponent,” Mrs. Hamilton said lightly as she, Donny, and Sam leaped over Helen and Alana to rush toward Randidly and the towering tree. Without taking her eyes off the foe in front of her, Alana forcefully created more energy and sent it in a wave toward Randidly, hoping to give those three some cover.
No such luck. Only five meters away from Alana, that energy dissipated into nothing. Grinding her teeth, Alana unleashed three more simple attacks, pushing Helen further and further backward.
If she couldn’t affect him from here, she would just shove Helen backward into his chest.
“The wounds I leave on those Classers you brought here won’t be easy to heal. Are you sure you can afford to leave them alone with my Riders?” Randidly said wonderingly. The pale grey Crown above his head pulsed with power. Behind her, Alana could sense that Kayle, Paolo, and the Cortez siblings had interposed themselves between the riders and the half dozen mages.
Instead of charging, the riders wheeled around and began to return to the individuals from Alana and’s Donny’s Raid Squad. The roots that the wounded had been somehow managing with Ptolemy assistance abruptly doubled in number, now switching from attacking to simply entangling the limbs of the warriors of Donnyton. Like heavy chains, they dragged them down, making them helpless before the riders’ charge.
Cursing, Ptolemy removed two short swords from his ring and began to desperately cut his allies free, but from Alana’s peripheral observation, it was clear he wouldn’t make it in time.
Annie’s voice cut through the air. “Dozer!”
With an enviable sort of combination, Annie jumped toward Dozer, who extended his weapon caught her with the tip of his club. He then flung her impossibly high into the air, like a baseball player hitting a grand slam above the scoreboard. Instantly, glowing white arrows began to rain down toward Randidly.
But as Dozer then charged to intercept the dangerous riders who were about to reach the bound Donnyton elite, Glendel stepped forward and raised both his arms. “Descend.”
There was a shuddering rumble and suddenly the area between the group fighting Randidly and the group fighting the riders was filled with a towering mass of flesh with spectral tentacles. Ooze slowly spread outward from the central body. The hovering text above it revealed it was Level 66, and its strikes smashed downward toward the riders with clear antagonism.
With that same impossible grace, they wove their way between them, inflicting small wounds on the tentacles as they hurried toward their prey that was struggling to free themselves from the roots.
Not my battle, Alana struggled to remind herself. Her focus returned once more to her own opponent. Yet even as Alana continued inflicted small wounds on Helen, around them the battle continued to escalate. The glowing arrows that Annie shot down at Randidly crashed into the ground like comets, yet Randidly casually smashed them out of the air with his spear.
Donny’s body was suffused with a golden light as he charged toward Randidly, while Sam hefted a vivid blue hammer the size of a cinder block. The strange spectral monstrosity raised all of its tentacles to smash downward in a second wave toward the riders, but then it screamed in absolute agony as almost one hundred roots ripped upward through its body.
The plants were covered in strange, spectral goo and wiggled like gleeful maggots, their thorned sides ripping deep gashes in the spectral monsters. Very soon, it shivered and collapsed, disappearing only five seconds after Glendel had summoned it. It also seemed that its disappearance hurt Glendel as well because he coughed and took several steps backward with a pale face.
The riders arrived at the still bound group around Ptolemy at the same time that Dozer did. It seemed that even if its life was in vain, the Level 66 monster had been able to buy some time. In that second, Dozer’s club was like a tornado, smashing out left and right. The riders were immediately forced to scatter.
This is the battle we are in, where a Level 66 monster is barely able to stop him for a second. Alana thought. So why am I…!
With three sharp strikes, Alana pressed Helen several steps backward. Then, as the other woman attempted to dodge around her, Alana slammed her with pure force and knocked her back several meters to the side.
Such was the distance she had pushed her that they now neared the edge of the area. Alana rapidly advanced forward, releasing thrust after thrust. The other woman’s desperation was clear in her eyes; if she retreated another step, she would be forced off the arena and to the lowered ground. At that point, she would have no chance.
Likely, Helen would have honor enough to stay irrelevant afterward. Because Alana had forcefully suppressed her, without using Skills, while generating enough to weaken Randidly’s image in the area.
Alana’s eyes glowed dangerously as she considered Helen. You don’t belong here. Stop holding me back.