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CHAPTER 243

GATEWAY OF ENTROPY (II)

Lino thundered across the sky, leaving behind a blazing arc of azure lightning mixing with the golden trail of the wings, stabbing his spear forward with a thrust breaking past the barrier of sound, even managing to stifle the surrounding space momentarily. Etvenya met him tit-for-tat, matching his thrust with a downward slash of her spear whilst coordinating two chakrams to flank his sides.

Feeling his spear being deflected, Lino spun in the air and slashed outwardly with the [Dragon Slayer] deflecting two chakrams and forcing her to take a step back; the two quickly tangled, with her having spurred her four wings further into the golden screen seemingly born with its own mind, repeatedly circling her and deflecting Lino’s strikes.

Whilst the two chakrams also seemed to attained the mind of their own, she whipped out a scythe in addition to the spear, using it to pressure Lino further until he was forced to also take out his shield and latch it onto his back. The scythe struck directly at it as the booming sounds of the explosion bellowed out; Lino felt as though a massive star crashed into his back, all his organs momentarily displacing, his body flaying downward in an uncontrollable spiral.

Gritting his teeth he shoved the [Spear of Salvation] down and used it to deflect his momentum, propelling himself back over and swiping the [Dragon Slayer] in a full circle during his rotation. The floor beneath broke from the spear’s impact while two chakrams were sent flying back by the sword.

Just as he was about to propel himself back into the sky, he saw the four golden wings stutter ablaze, burning away like the prideful sun; Etvenya suddenly streaked down, well past the speed Lino could match comfortably, forcing him to momentarily pull the [Dragon Slayer] into the void world and use his freed hand to hold the shield like a massive monolith of defense.

She stabbed her spear straight into the heart of the shield, causing a massive shockwave to resonate outwardly, ripping up the tiled floor further and brisking away at the walls surrounding the arena, cracking them. Lino felt a sudden shove of momentum he could not suppress, causing him to lose the already loose foothold he had and crash directly into the ground beneath; the pressure of the shield being pushed back cracked his arm over, pressing directly into his ribs and soon puncturing both his lungs.

The regeneration quickly kicked in as he cried out in agony, using the left arm that was holding onto the spear to stab back into the earth and push himself up against the momentum; unwilling to lose in the direct conformation, he gritted his teeth and endured the cringed sounds of the crackling bones and bursting muscles and veins, the innermost layer of the shield being showered in his own blood.

After nearly ten seconds of gruesome struggle, he managed to halt her momentum and push her away, forcing her to to the sky yet again; feeling somewhat angered, he flipped over onto his feet as lightning crackled beneath them, causing soot to emerge on the already crumbled floor. The wings behind his back fluttered as he suddenly heaved the spear into the sky, using every one of his muscles to increase its speed to the maximum.

Without even looking at the result, he withdrew the shield onto his back and took out the [Dragon Slayer], holding it both arms as he shelved forth. [Legend] effect of the [Heaven-cast Armor Set] activated, reducing his Qi consumption by a whole half. Funneling Will into the Singularity, his jet-black eyes momentarily obtained a milky-white worm before the latter vanished; matching -- and even surpassing her previous speed -- he exploded into the sky, leaving behind a lagged sound of a boom and the collapsing floor. An azure-golden streak blasted toward Etvenya who had just evaded the hurdled spear.

Leaving her without too much time to prepare, she muttered something lowly as winds round her grew bladed, traces visible to the eye catching ablaze, soon encompassing the whole sky. It took Lino but a second to realize she wasn’t doing this through Qi -- but through Will, externalizing it and using it to manipulate reality.

He braved forth into the shower of raining flame, slashing away with the [Dragon Slayer] directly at her and forcing her to cross the spear and the scythe together to defend. A somewhat delayed explosion distorted reality beyond the world’s capacity to endure it; it cracked like a vase, space collapsing into puzzle-pieces, reality bending in and out of existence. The two briefly found themselves within the void of non-existence, where their very own beings were rejected, seemingly on the brink of extinguishment.

Lino recovered first, somehow managing to rip himself out of the nothingness and back into the collapsing reality; he had wounds splattered all over his body that even his insane regenerative capabilities were unable to heal momentarily; one of his eyes had simply vanished from its socket, leaving behind but a bland hole of blackness and jetted blood.

Despite the pain assailing every inch of his being, he merely screamed it out on top of his lungs, the wings fluttering again as he blasted through the distorted reality and met Etvenya on the other end; she, too, was in shambles, her armor cracked all over, one of her legs completely missing. She, too, however seemed unruffled by the whole ordeal, quickly matching his strike with the two of her own.

Explosion after an explosion ensued within the high skies as the two darted around as mere blurs in the clear sky, collapsing the reality over and over. Scar after scar appeared, and though many were barely a few inches wide, it was enough for the spatial storms to come through and cause further destruction.

Lino felt a cold feeling of steel digging through his liver; glancing down, he found a shiny tip of the spear embedded into his side. Rather than withdrawing, he used his free arm to grasp and it and hold it tightly, preventing Etvenya to pull it back out. Using his Will, then, he tried to do what she did -- externalize it to the point of being able to affect the surrounding reality.

Unlike her, however, he decided to go even further down the path of madness; rather than simply trying to affect the more common Laws of Nature, such as Fire and Wind, he chained himself to the sliver of time, further linking it with the Law of Death.

Etvenya’s soul suddenly froze as the most bizarre feeling she’d ever experienced overwhelmed her for a moment; her body, her mind, her heart, soul and Will all told her uniformly that she was dead -- that her time had ended, that the world around was but the last flash of reality. She, for that brief second, genuinely believed she had died, somehow. By the time she came to, she saw a cold tip of the blade chasing after her neck; startled, she cried out and let go of the spear, lifting her arm and reinforcing it with as much Qi as she could before propelling it into the blade’s path.

The two clashed, and her arm managed to endure but for a second before being sliced off clean, with a burst of blood gushing out into the sky. That second, however, was more than enough for her to retreat and avoid the blade strike. She glanced at Lino with perplexing emotions; the boy was currently panting, hunched over, his one healthy eye decorated in the genuine article of madness -- she had only saw it reflected in a few more eyes, all within the memories and Wills of the Archaic Records.

The lack of that, she mused for a moment, was what would eventually lead to her own fall. She couldn’t do what the boy just did -- the impossible. Only a very few, select people could ever crawl into madness and make it their own -- most who descend into it... never return -- and if they do, they are never whole.

Lino rested but for a moment before channeling Qi into his wings again, slashing forth with undisputed desire, passion, a want walking beyond the mere embryo that was his Will. The latter was slowly evolving, within that moment, changing, growing stronger, more mature. For one reason or another, he was able to freely control his current state of mind; he was able to dive into the madness and force his body to shut up, yet not lose his reason.

He didn’t think too much of it at the moment as he was too preoccupied trying to figure out a way to win. While his recent showing may have struck Etvenya, he knew all too well how much it cost him. Even with the Qi expenditure halved, he was burning through the reserves far more quickly than he wanted. Comparatively, her Qi was simply far purer than his, meaning she could use it for much longer even if their quantities were exactly the same.

Their dance resumed, the six wings perpetually fluttering, the streaks of golden, azure, crimson and collar mingling as though they were forever meant to be. Explosion after explosion ensued, further collapsing the arena which by now had turned into a pile of rubble and debris, with no whole structure in sight. There were no walls, no floors, no seats, no fences... just those four dome-like fingers stretching out toward the singular point where the light still shone, seemingly unaffected by the storm unfolding beneath it.

Lino ate away at his Qi reserves with clear abandon, seemingly discarding any notion of prolonged battle -- it was his only choice. He couldn’t let it drag out, as he’d never win. With that thought in mind, realizing that she had gone on defensive, seemingly letting him wail away at her at his will, he paused but for a moment and took a deep breath before activating <Berserk> -- practically his last card for a victory. His exhausted body exploded with energy, his muscles contorting, veins popping out like tangled worms, eyes turning crimson as his black hair grew out a few strands of white.

This mere explosion of raw energy distorted the space around him as his presence grew at least hundredfold, his Will encompassing every inch of his body, and nearly a meter outwardly in a sphere. This was the strongest he ever felt, the freest he ever felt, the bravest he ever felt. It was also his last ditch effort; if she managed to scuffle her way until the <Berserk> ran out, he’d have no option but to end the Trial, forever condemning himself to his current results. He was unwilling.

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beddedOtaku

Bio: Bad writer, worse painter, terrible singer. Accumulation of all things gone wrong. Rather proud of it, actually.

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