This was a baaaad idea.
Greg Veder had that thought rush through his mind for the single instant before the wind sphere he had instinctively formed to shield himself buckled, protecting him from the immediate overpressure wave only to shatter like an egg in the wake of everything that followed. For a heartbeat, he hung there, vulnerable as explosions and chaos dominated everything he knew. The knightly cape didn't even have time to blink before the frenzied pressure wave struck him hard — a crushing swell of heat, sound and force. Greg's eyes widened as his already-battered torso was jarred by the invisible blow, the scream torn from his lungs.
For what felt like far too long, the world around him was a tempest of fire. Even with his hearing muted from the roar of burning all about him, every rippling emanation of heat and energy in the firestorm seemed to rattle his entire body on a level past the physical, roaring flames and screaming wind as he processed it through the senses that both his Aerokinesis and Pyrokinesis provided him. It was a new type of pain: one that was entirely unwelcome.
Thankfully, the experience rendered him a bit too insensate to fully conceptualize how much he absolutely fucking hated it.
Fully lacking in physical feeling for those first few moments of raw sensation, it took Greg Veder just as much time to realize that he was flying through the air, having been hurled backwards in the instant Lung's blast of fire had met his overly-pressurized sphere of wind. The buildings closest to him collapsed and their windows erupted with ear-splitting force as the pressure wave demanded the glass and plastics to give way. It had picked him up with ease, throwing him into the onrushing wind as if Greg was nothing more than an errant leaf. The sword in his grip threatened to do the same, nearly tugged from his hand by the sudden force but Greg held it tight, his hand glowing blue as he drew upon another Skill to keep it in place.
He toppled head over heels backwards; his uncontrolled flight shifted his gaze just in time to catch Lung in a similar predicament. Wild streams of fire – each one several dozen feet at the smallest – poured from his maw with every roar as the draconic villain was thrown back himself.
It was almost enough to make Greg laugh.
Whatever humor was on his mind was quickly wrenched away as the young cape's sudden flight came to a stop.
Or, more accurately, a repeated series of stops.
Greg couldn't help but make that internal correction as his Reinforced back met the wall of some already-dilapidated building, the third one in almost half as many seconds. The blond had shot through the first of the crumbling walls hard enough, involuntarily twisting in the air until his torso slammed hard into a pillar that collapsed around him with a prolonged cracking noise that he hoped was just wood. The rest of his involuntary flight was more of the same.
-85 (Critical Hit!)
It was only by sheer luck that his sword hadn't ended up impaling him; Greg had managed to hold it firmly away from the rest of his body as he was launched backward and what little part of him could still focus thanked whatever entity that might be listening — real or imaginary — for that small mercy. He opened his eyes for a second time as he twisted in the air and regret the action immediately as he smashed through another wall head first, a face full of drywall his reward. The next two came at him much easier as his momentum nearly killed to the point that he barely felt the spikes of stabbing pain that were his ribs being repeatedly introduced to building material.
He finally hit the unforgiving ground, head spinning dizzily as his body rolled across the floor with a multitude of dusty boxes in his path. He didn't even register the impacts as they slowed him down. It was a dazed and confused Greg Veder that grit his teeth as he forced himself into an near-expert roll, inherent agility and ingrained acrobatic skill guiding him through instinctive motions.
An extended hiss of pain that left the young man's lips as he finally managed to halt his tumbling motion; knees, legs, arms and every other part of him launching some form of protest as he flipped himself upwards and back onto to his feet far more quickly than certain parts of him appreciated. Greg stumbled back, almost tripping as he tried to regain his balance. He stabbed Gram down into the stone floor of the dark stockroom he had found himself in, the golden blade sinking into stone with little resistance as its wielder gripped the sword's hilt like a cane for support with suddenly shaky hands.
Son of a—
A quiet grunt of pain tumbled from Greg's open mouth, new sources of general ache and discomfort making themselves heard now that the teen had finally found his feet. His helmet felt several sizes too small on his skull as his head simultaneously pounded and rung like a bell in a church tower while his breastplate felt like a vise clamped tight around his chest. His eyes struggled to focus, brainpan still reeling from its many impacts against uncaring buildings, and bursts of light nearly as bright as Lung's flames danced in his vision, doing their best to leave him at least half-blind.
Letting go of his sword, Greg stumbled back again, free hand scrambling out to grip the edge of a half-toppled metal shelf that leaned back against a cracked back wall. With some measure of stability returned to him, it was all he could to blink away the spots in his eyes and focus on pulling himself together.
For a single moment, he felt like the old him – just Greg: awkward and ungainly,curled up in pain with bruises all over as he hid from someone bigger and stronger because he couldn't ask someone for help… not that they could if they wanted to, Greg acknowledged. There were very few capes with either the powers, physique and gear to handle this sort of situation; this all-oppressive heat that Lung was putting out as simply as breathing that grew hotter by the second.
Armsmaster definitely wasn't one of those capes. While his armor could survive Lung's heat, Greg severely doubted his skin would last all that long before it began to slough off in thick chunks beneath his suit. Miss Militia was literally just a woman with any gun she wanted, Photon Mom's force fields wouldn't save her eyeballs from drying up in her skull and, as far as Greg knew, Glory Girl's luscious head of beautiful, blonde hair was as flammable as any other. Truly, he was alone.
That morose moment lasted just that, before Greg Veder forced the image away as he shook his head, returning his focus to the part of him that called himself Prodigy. Greg blinked again, idly calling up his Inventory with a silent thought and waiting a moment for two already-peeled hard-boiled eggs to drop into his open palm followed by one thick piece of unwrapped jerky. Not the best but I'm out of PowerBars anyway. Note to self: Get a fuckin' Costco card.
Not the most eggciting meal.
+3 to HP every 10 seconds for 5 minutes.
Expires in 00:01:25:32
|Big Daddy's Jumbo Jerky Stick
Go ahead. Enjoy Big Daddy's meat.
+5 to HP every 15 seconds for 30 minutes.
Expires in 01:15:33:19
He shoved the first two into his mouth without a moment's hesitation, nearly swallowing both in four rapid bites before quickly going to work on the third item. Okay… okay. Plan. Need a plan. Let's plan. First… what do I know? What do I know about Lung?
As his jaw worked on the jerky, he could feel the pain in both his head and chest subsiding somewhat as he let the food items work their proverbial – or maybe literal – magic on him. I know Lung heals. That should be a given as that was one of the most obvious aspects of the villain's powerset. Lung had a healing factor. No… not healing. Lung regenerates. A better distinction, Greg mused, noting that simple healing wouldn't account for the type of recovery Lung was capable of; both in sheer speed and capability. Simple healing wouldn't have restored the eye that Greg vividly remembered carving out with a wind slash a little over a week ago. Lung gets bigger the more he has to heal, maybe?
It was a question, yes, because despite Lung being a local threat for roughly two-thirds as long as Greg had been alive, no one was really sure of the inciting factor behind his transformation. As far as anyone knew, even the PRT had no idea. And if they did, they certainly weren't the type to broadcast that type of thing to anyone not under their authority. No, Greg shut his eyes, lips parting slightly to mouth the word. Capes that have fought him before barely did any real damage and he still got massive, so that can't be it. The more I hurt Lung, the stronger he g-.
The faint sound of roaring broke its way into his thoughts and once again, Greg fought the urge to wince as sweat dripped into his right eye. His hair was already damp to the point that "uncomfortable" couldn't even describe it. It was made even worse with his head enclosed in the medieval-looking helmet Sparky had added to his costume, a piece that was probably scraped together from a costume store then reinforced with metal. Since when did Sparky know metalworking?
The heat was seriously no joke, though, that much Greg could attest to; the fires raging through the front part of the store only adding to his struggle. He could feel the damage it was doing to him, albeit rather minor, and his costume only fared better than the rest of the purgatory that was once Coventree Plaza due to his [Layer Reinforcement] and that Perk of his keeping it in one piece.
Even as Lung roared from the outside, Greg didn't bother moving yet, simply closing his eyes as he pushed himself to focus again. Hurting Lung makes him stronger. But it's not a perfect power. Otherwise he wouldn't have run before.
It was a common thread with Lung's public appearances in Brockton Bay. While he had effectively bulldozed the entire Protectorate in his early showings when Greg was a child, there had been several instances through the years where he had been forced to retreat from a fight against several other capes, both villains and heroes, despite none of them being close to Lung's level when it came to power, objectively speaking.
Maybe… Lung is older now so his power is weaker than it was ten years ago? He ventured the thought hopefully, expression lightening for a moment before almost immediately shooting it down as his smile inverted itself on his face. No. He ramps up. That wouldn't exactly work. Hell, he's ramping faster than he has in a long while. Growing a whole four feet in five minutes? His frown deepened at that thought, almost gritting his teeth as he gave the problem more thought. No, not weaker and definitely not slower.
Okay… He allowed himself to venture another possibility, willfully ignoring the sound of Lung's tantrum even as the sound began to edge closer. So, maybe his power's not perfect? So, he takes damage but he needs to be able to heal the damage quickly enough that he can get stronger from it. Greg's eyes opened up suddenly as vaguely remembered battleboard arguments suddenly came to the forefront of his mind. Lung's power ramps down outside of a fight. Which means that he needs to heal quick enough that he can still fight. But… he heals so quick anyways. Any cut I give him is already healing by the time I land another one. And last time...
He swallowed the last of the jerky, frustration easing as he found himself on the path of what some would term a solution. Last time… last time I put everything I had into one hit. And he went down. But back then, I had Lady Bug handling DoT with her bugs and all that poison definitely kept Lung off his game with constant debuffs. His head tilted forward, bobbing slightly with an almost imperceptible nod. I gotta do the same so that even if the dragon gets stronger the longer he fights, the more he heals, the more he gets hurt... or all the above… No matter what, he still can't fight the same if he's trying to handle those.
Which means that fighting just to bring down Lung's HP is the wrong move… A smile burst to life behind his somewhat crumpled helmet, grimy face lighting up with relieved laughter as Greg found himself with the answer he needed. "I've gotta break him."
A sound caught his ears as one gauntleted fist landed firmly in the palm of another, the distinct clink of metal on metal lost in the wake of another ground-shaking roar that seemed far too close; even with the ringing fog that held supremacy over Greg's sense of hearing. Blue eyes visibly widened as the blond realized that what little time he had was basically at an end.
Okay, planning time over. Time to move. He nodded to himself, the action shifting to a sudden shake of the head as he pulled his sword from the floor and dismissed it to his Inventory before taking several slow steps back. He retreated cautiously, taking enough time to be careful with his steps so as not to make any noise until his back met the wall behind him. Knees already bent, Greg slowly tilted forward and lowered the rest of him to shift his center of gravity. His Reinforcement spiked to its maximum output, the energy focused on his lower body as the teen stared straight ahead at the several holes he had flown through. One after another, each was visible in the light of the flames from just outside the windowless storefront.
A pocket of Aerokinesis formed at his back, a mass of air taller and wider than he was packed with enough air pressure to send a large vehicle airborne if ruptured. It wasn't exactly what Greg wanted, but it would have to do.
Body humming with unreleased power, the young cape allowed himself another smile, unable to help himself at this point. Taking down Lung for good wasn't something you did everyday, after all. The ground-shaking footsteps came closer and closer, Lung's volume increasing in time with the ambient heat surrounding Greg. He grinned savagely despite the added sweat pooling on his brow forcing him to blink the salty liquid from his eyes. Oh yeah, he's close.
As quickly as the grin appeared, it suddenly vanished as Greg blinked in confusion. The sounds from Lung: the charging footsteps, the angered bellows that seemed to be the villain's calling card, the jet-like roar of flames as they were given new life from the dragon-man's attention…
They had stopped.
All of them.
The only thing remaining that could be attributed to him, Greg noted with a unsteady frown, was a low rumbling growl that, while undoubtedly Lung with his gravel-like vocal cords, seemed far too loud. Far, far, too loud for something as simple and understated as a growl.
Far too loud. Blue eyes widened for the third time as the blond realized something. Okay, so he's almost right on top of me. I need to get out of here nownownownow. His [Danger Sense] seemed to be in agreement with him, if the pulse he could now make out over the ringing in his ears and the pounding in his skull was anything to go by.
Okay… Greg held himself still, not even breathing as he kept his senses locked firmly on the fiery outside of the half-burnt and crumbling building. His eyes and ears waiting for a sign of their own, the blond kept half his focus on his [Danger Sense], waiting for that tingle of danger that ran down his spine and pulsed in his head before he risked throwing himself out into the open again.
The relative silence stretched out for far too long; the sound of Lung's rumbling breath, crackling flames and the creaking of the building around him louder than anything else in the world as he focused what remained of his hearing on them.
Lung shifted suddenly, powerful muscles slamming against the ground with mammoth force. The reverberations shook Greg's hide-away at the same moment Lung let out another roar, challenging his opponent to face him and die.
The very same instant Greg's [Danger Sense] blared a warning.
His already maximized Reinforcement multiplied to new heights as Greg Veder took one powerful step forward. The golden light concentrated in his lower body flared a bright, bloody red for a heartbeat as the marble floor cracked under his feet, a spider-web of fissures forming instantly. The mass of pressure behind him erupted as he forced the side facing the wall to suddenly give way and all three floors of the building suddenly groaned as it was once again met with a level of force it was not designed to weather. The building around Greg shattered as he launched himself out of it uncaringly as unrelenting air pressure impacted against already crumbling brick, mortar and plaster, all of which shattered under the stress. The entire building went up in hellfire half an instant later.
All right! Greg didn't even notice the further destruction he'd left behind him as he shot out from the collapsing structure fast enough that he visibly strained from the sudden acceleration, face pulled back into a grimace as he was launched through the air like a cannonball. I'm out. I'm flying. What next? was the first thing that popped into his mind, the young cape already drawing on his Aerokinesis to slow and reorient what could only be termed his flight path.
Why do I ask these questions? The knight-themed cape didn't even look at his attacker, relying on his instincts as he forced his body into a mid-air spin with his arms raised in a defensive 'X' to shield his face. Not a full second later, he was glad he did.
It was like staring into the sun behind half-closed eyes, a sudden flare of yellow light that seemed to touch everything despite being so far from it all. A shining lance of condensed flame – the blast no wider around than a grown man, compared to Lung's usual massive blasts – seared past him and roared off into the sky, the edges of the plasma spear not even coming within several feet from his body.
Much like the sun, though, distance was for the best of all that witnessed it.
-148 (Critical Hit!)
Greg Veder opened his mouth in a soundless gasp, unprepared for that single moment of raw, intensely powerful heat. His mouth, lungs, eyes, skin; every single part of him seemingly lost what little moisture yet remained as Lung's blast threatened to set the very air on fire. Worse than the thick cloying smoke already stinging his eyes and making his throat feel like gravel, the blast had managed to sear his flesh even without touching him; his gauntlets and chestplate partly melted from just that alone.
His face was a rictus of pain. Reinforcement only did so much to mitigate the excruciating sensation of being broiled alive and bearing the wounds for such. As much as he was screaming and cursing his head off on the inside, Greg could only form his throbbing hands into shuddering fists and react the only way he knew how.
A Mana Platform formed under his foot for a fraction of a second as he forced himself into another flip, and the exact moment he was perfectly upside down was the very same that Greg Veder kicked off of another, launching himself straight down and far away from the effective radius of another of Lung's sun blasts.
He blinked away the red notification in his vision, wincing as the harsh touchdown made his calves burn from the sudden impact. His knees buckled, a sharp pain plaguing his joints as Greg was forced to shift his body weight almost as soon as he landed or risk greater injury despite the healthy amount of Reinforcement keeping them strong. His head jerked up almost immediately after that, pain fading quickly as shock blanked out everything else in his mind. Holy hamburgers, he's huge.
Greg suppressed the urge to let his jaw hang as Lung's already massive forelimbs bulged in size again, looking out of place even against Lung's impressive eighteen feet of height. The sudden shift in mass sunk them deeper into the bubbling tar pit that was once asphalt beneath his feet. The villain roars were loud enough that the noise felt almost physical. For a moment – with his oversized torso, outrageously huge limbs, vicious claws and general gait – Greg couldn't help but liken the villain to a particularly scaly bear-cat-monster.
Then, with a sound that might have been half that a roar and half again a groan, the nubs on his back exploded outwards with a sickening crack and a spray of blood and flesh that almost instantly vanished vanished in the scorching heat surrounding Lung. Massive spears of gore-covered bone jutted from the villain's shoulder-blades, each one rapidly growing in size and segmentation almost immediately as they appeared. His spine stretched outwards grotesquely, the half-baked growths of bone and red-tinted flesh literally exploding outwards as bat-like wings sprouted into full bloom; each one bigger than Lung himself was.
Jesus H. Christ, why is he so goddamn big…? No. Not the time. Greg Veder was already moving before he shook his head, running towards Lung's partially hunched-over and groaning form, not willing to waste this moment out of something as stupid as shock. He couldn't let Lung grow any bigger, not if he expected to be the one to end this. He had a plan, of course.
It was a shit plan and would likely go wrong almost immediately, but it was – by some definitions, at least – a plan. The way Greg saw it, this whole situation wasn't a fight so much as it was a dominance display for Lung, the villain wanting to fight him one on one for more than just kicks. It had to have hurt his pride, his reputation, everything that mattered to a guy like Lung, to lose to some rando no one had ever heard before. Especially when that rando was a kid. To counter that, Lung had to display his dominance by utterly wrecking his opponent in a way that no one could doubt who was stronger.
To beat him, Greg would have to fight fire with fire.
In this case, quite literally.
"Fire Dragon's A-Aura!" The scream from Greg shifted from a raspy gasp to a perfectly clear shout mid-sentence, fresh oxygen suddenly filling the teen's airways as opposed to the smoke and soot that had been slowly choking him before. Even the heat he felt around him had lessened; the once oppressive and oven-like conditions now seemed more like something out of a sauna. A smile crossed Greg's face as he spared a glance at himself and the orange-red flames wafting off his body, the expression cheerful for a moment before shifting into something only described as predatory. He glanced back at Lung, a whim suddenly coming to the forefront of his mind and Greg indulging it almost instinctively. Observe.
That predatory smile drew back in on itself, gaining a rather unsettled tinge as Greg found himself shuddering at both the level and all those question marks, desperately hoping they weren't what as bad as he feared them to be. Before he could dwell on his suddenly renewed sense of caution, a pulse at the base of his neck caught his attention and the teenager sprung back into action, focus returning. Mana Platform!
He flung himself forward and up, a small pocket of air exploding from behind and launching him over Lung's massive form and a wave of fire that threatened to roast him alive. In between breaths, both Lung's and his, he summoned his weapon back to his right hand, biting back an angry scream as the villain raised his head to shoot him a molten glare. "MOTHERF-"
"Language, foul beast!" Greg shouted, voice clear and loud as he slashed out with Gram from a distance, blades of wind glinting against Lung's armor. Some of the more powerful ones actually bit into his scales, exposing oddly patterned, reddish flesh and creating gashes and gouges where they could. "There are children watching!"
Twisting to avoid Greg's razor sharp-slashes and weathering those he couldn't, Lung's long, sinuous body moved with a speed and grace truly alien to his size, the massive villain seemingly gaining more and more grace the longer he stayed transformed. Even though he was bigger than most trucks, had a super-long neck, a deadly tail, and gigantic wings, the giant scaly asshole was doing his very best to act like he didn't weigh a couple tons, and succeeding.
Greg himself was a blur of motion, never in the same place for longer than an instant; springing, side-stepping, whirling, twisting, he offered a constantly shifting yet near-untouchable target for Lung's teeth, claws and flame. At the same time, his own straight blade sang death as they carved through glistening silver scales.
Lung tried his best but he couldn't exactly make himself any smaller of a target.
It remained rather insane, though, that out of all the crazy things that Greg could think of about a man that literally turned into a dragon — from his four jaws to the crazy-fast healing or the fact that his blood managed to somehow literally boil inside his own body — what truly stuck out most in his mind was just how agile the giant silver fuck managed to be when it really mattered.
Lung was no match for him in that category, of course. Greg was flitting in and out of the villain's range like a particularly determined mosquito.
A mosquito holding a needle enchanted with +7 Fuck You.
Even so, despite Lung's current sheer bulk, the way he could almost manage to keep up was still an insane thing to witness. Like watching an elephant perform a gymnastics routine, it just didn't look quite right enough to be real. And yet, Lung did so anyways.
But the dragon wasn't fast enough to evade completely unscathed and Greg capitalized on that. Little nicks and scrapes added up with the ringing of wind-blades against silvery scales. Lung began to falter, slowing every so slightly in favor of more powerful attacks and counters, that Greg almost failed to notice it. But Lung was getting frustrated, unable to land a solid blow on the gnat that continued to pester him.
Frustrated enough that one of Greg's attacks managed to slip past his defense and land a substantial blow to Lung's hind-leg, a potent scar of wind obliterating a thin line of scales and flesh but failed to cut deep enough to truly cripple the dragon. Lung screeched in agonizing rage as the flames around him howled.
Sensing weakness, Greg launched himself towards the dragon-man who had fallen to all-fours as the flesh regrew. But in the instant was in range to swing Gram to take the villain's head, the heat spiked. The yellow flames that formed the dragon's holocaust aura gained a blue tinge, monstrous body expanding in an instant. As he grew, silver claws gleamed with malevolence, Lung lunged.
Greg drew back instantly, almost dancing away from the bestial leap as he shifted around the villain, dodging by the skin of his teeth from the surprising speed. Raising his sword to counter, he could only click his tongue and give what Lung had tried a mental shake of the head. Sloppy.
It really was. Sloppy was the only way to describe the move: the dragon used the wrong leg. Pouncing forward with the half-healed leg had robbed Lung of the momentum he would have needed to even try to surprise Greg, especially once the younger cape had gotten used to how the villain moved. The leg had already healed in that burst of growth, but Lung was still off-balanced by the failed lunge.
Grin already wide across his face, the young cape brought his sword down and continued to respond the best way he could. "[Raging Combo!]"
In the span of less than five seconds.
Powerful swings that with a normal sword would easily bisect a man tore into Lung as Greg darted around and across his body, bouncing around as best he could before the villain could gather his bearings. He should have been nothing but a blur.
Should being the operative word.
By the twelfth slash of his sword, Lung's glowing orange eyes had shifted before the rest of him, narrowing in on the golden glow of Gram as it tore into his regenerating body, streaks and sparks of gold light trailing behind the blade.
By the twenty-fifth, the villain was already in motion.
Slow motion, compared to Greg's Reinforcement enhanced speed, but motion nonetheless.
Less than three seconds, Greg noted to himself, the number lodging itself firmly in the back of his mind as he retreated away with a Reinforced leap the instant the dragon successfully parried Gram, narrowly avoiding Lung's powerful stomp as he both cratered and melted the debris that remained in the general area where Greg had stood.
Even with his body Reinforced to the maximum that Greg could manage, moments like that were far too common for Greg's liking. Lung had extensive combat experience and was clearly adept at reading the flow of battle, and was far too comfortable with reacting to his movements in melee and trying to turn them against him. With every assault Greg attempted, the dragon was capable of reading it moments later to launch a counter, allowing Lung to make various attacks that came far too close for comfort on multiple occasions.
If the armored boy had his math right – and he was pretty damn sure he did – he had to have been darting all over the area with speed surpassing that of an Indy Car, albeit one with far superior acceleration.
Yet Lung persisted.
A running theme of their duel to the death thus far — Lung never gave up.
It was a sense of determination that Greg would have admired. At least, if it originated from nearly anyone other than the mini-kaiju trying to tear him apart and burn the pieces to ashes.
The roar was followed up with a blast of flame as large as a mid-size sedan and a stream of thick, almost gelatinous flame. It was met with a whirlwind from Greg, the blond doing nothing more than spinning his free arm before letting a small tornado fly from the action, both dissipating as Greg bounded from location to location.
A pained roar accompanied the villain's rushed attack as he spun almost one-hundred and eighty degrees, tail sweeping viciously towards the smaller cape as it once again made the air crack with its approach.
Gram let out a near-audible hum as its wielder flooded his Willpower Into the Reinforced weapon, a sound that might just have been his imagination, and swung out the flat of his blade. His free hand, clad in a half-melted gauntlet, braced the other side of the blade and thrusted forward to meet Lung's tail lash. A mass of spikes was turned aside with a deft parry, Greg's amateur attempt at half-swording helping him accomplish the task, and he struck back. It was with a laugh that he nearly spun the glowing sword in his grip, simply flicking it with his wrist to add some force, and shaved off several feet from Lung's fifth appendage before the villain could whip it away.
Dashing forward as Lung processed the sudden loss, roaring piteously at the shortening of his tail, Greg let out of a roar of his own and launched himself forward at Lung's unprotected back. "[Dash Straight!]"
The sword made contact with a not-insignificant burst of light as Greg rocketed past Lung with a spray of steaming, foul-smelling blood as Gram tore through the villain's left knee, a massive chunk of flesh and scale blasting off the dragon's leg. The dragon-man stumbled, unable to put proper weight on the injured hind-leg that had been cut down to the bone. The bloody red mist vanished in an instant from the heat as the world burned from Lung's pain.
"By the way, that's called an avulsion!" It was with that comment he let out a laugh that was far too guttural and raspy to sound a thing like himself. "I hope it hurts, you worthless lizard!"
A limb as tall as Greg himself was and over twice again as wide slammed down on the exact same spot where Greg had been, the knightly cape dashing away in a surge of boosted speed. Lung roared wordlessly as a flame-wreathed hand dug into the ground, fire spiking in intensity and bringing the tarmac to a boil in seconds under his furious, unrelenting aura. Greg launched forward again, a trail of golden light and an explosive mass of air propelling him at high speeds.
Lung did the same, a blast of flame propelling his still-shuddering body forward in a fiery imitation of Greg's own method. [Danger Sense] pulsed a warning he didn't need, Greg's eyes widening slightly as a set of vicious, blazing claws rushed to tear him in various different pieces.
He didn't even have it in him to be surprised, Lung's sudden crippling making him much slower than he had been just moments before. Another Mana Platform formed under Greg, the small plate of Mana shattering into its constituent near-translucent particles the instant he leapt off it. Heated orange eyes met Greg's, the blond staring back with a determined expression. The world seemed to slow as he passed over Lung's pouncing form.
Where Greg had once soared upwards, he now dropped like a stone, the golden light brightening for an instant as the sword in his hands was enhanced by yet another use of the same Skill. He paid no attention to how his seared arms screamed in pain at the moment of impact, his knees begging him not to repeat the action as he slammed down onto the ground finally.
No, the only things he bothered to pay even the slightest bit of attention to was Lung's glorious scream and the sound of three pounds of steel cleaving through the thickest part of the villain's wrist. A spray of blood hit him the instant before he leapt back and several meters away, Greg nearly wincing before the liquid evaporated against his armor, steaming away with a smell that he would rather forget.
This was the new goal, the plan he should have gone with from the very beginning. He couldn't try meeting Lung hit for hit anymore. Letting Lung set the pace of the fight was basically signing your death warrant, after all. Hell, the fact that he had previously rushed in to fight Lung without even so much as a coherent plan had not been the smartest idea...
Honestly it was one of the stupidest things Greg had ever done.
It was right up, near the top of the list of "Stupid Things Greg Has Done", he could admit that much.
Right up there with the first time he had faced Lung without a coherent plan, probably.
Most likely right next to the time where he had tried to kill Oni Lee while already bleeding out and almost dead on his feet. Again, none of these had been the greatest of ideas but…
Okay, there was no "but" to that.
Trading blows with a titan like Lung, even before he was this big, was usually a more complicated form of suicide. Most capes fighting the Dragon of Kyushu one-on-one would have been a charred meal half-a-minute in with no way to actually damage the villain. Greg didn't have to worry about that as much, though, as he had force multipliers to match the massive meathead.
His "dragon-slaying" sword, his Skills, his Status…
From a pure stats perspective, Lung might have been an absolute monster but Greg knew for a fact that this was a monster he could bring down.
As long as he was careful, at least.
Lung's stump of a right arm literally writhed before Greg's eyes, the gory, bleeding mess bubbling up with flesh as the thing tried to heal. But rather than wait for it to regenerate, the dragon-man suddenly took to the air on those massive wings, beating his sixth and seventh limbs with enough force to buffet debris in a windstorm and fan the flames on the ground to greater heights. He reared his head back in another roar, individual words and curses lost beneath his own incomprehensible voice as he hovered above the plaza. As blood poured from his mutilated limb in steaming gouts, Lung lashed back out at Greg the only way he likely believed to be free of a counter, an focused blast of yellow-orange flame tearing out of his maw towards the ground.
Greg's breathing deepened, shifting to a near-wheeze as he literally felt the heat from the blast as it neared him; not on his skin, but somewhere else entirely. His eyes widened, a thought coming to mind and before he could brush it away, Greg was already in motion. "No, you don't!"
The blond spun on his heels and pulled at a feeling deep in his gut, screaming his words as he swung his arms forcefully in Lung's direction. "TRY BETTER!" The blaze shuddered in mid-air as the entire cloud of infernal flame seemed to invert on itself and in under a second, the powerful eruption reversed direction in mid-air, swallowing several other newly launched flames from Lung as the dragon's flames were turned against him.
"Not done!" Greg swung his fist, a mass of air rocketing from his relatively tiny fist with intense speed, only to impact against the last reflected burst of flame moments before it struck Lung.
An instant later, they both hit home.
The surprise on Lung's face as his own flames turned against him would have been comical if it wasn't also the fuel for a thousand nightmares, the villain's long serpentine neck flailing in apoplectic fury as Greg's final wind-enhanced fire blast exploded against his upper chest. The ground shook as Greg fought to keep his footing with [Surface Adhesion], the ground vibrating under his feet from the power of the sudden flare and a plume of smoke, soot and fire exploding upwards from the epicenter of the blast. Rocks and rubble sent flying blazed like meteors past Greg's vision, some even melting to slag.
Greg rushed forward with Gram held out in front of him, tearing across the burning ruins of Coventree Plaza with speed that left him at best a vaguely glowing blur. With Lung wide open, he wasn't going to waste his opportunity. Lung seemed to be of the same mind, the airborne dragon-man opening his maw to release another swirling blast of flame far larger than even five of Greg put together.
The armored cape was already dodging before he had seen it, bursting forwards and diving into a roll. A single moment later, he leapt again, this time straight up towards Lung's flying form to avoid what was now a series of blasts from the unrelenting villain roaring above him.
Lung tilted his head to the side, serpentine neck seeming to coil like a spring, before suddenly lashing out towards Greg with all four jaws open wide to receive him. Greg swung out with a fist as Lung dove to catch him with his open maw, an explosive blast of wind forcefully batting the villain's head aside.
Another translucent platform solidified beneath his feet and he exploded off of it and directly towards Lung's open and unprotected torso. "[Weapon Charge!] [Raging Combo!]"
It had to be said that there were certain moments that Greg couldn't help but feel like Gram was more than simple metal when he used it. The very essence of the sword resonated with his Mana and Willpower, seeming to cast aside the appearance of steel for a blurring crescent arc of auric majesty as he let the beautiful blade sing through the air with deadly precision.
Each slash was performed almost as fast as the actual thought, Greg's health dropping as he forced his Reinforcement to spike again, the sensation of [Burst] still making him feel like it was rending his muscles apart every single time he used it. For all he knew, it actually was and he just didn't know it, his power not deeming it important enough to inform him of it.
The wind screamed even louder on Greg's behalf as his sword tore through air, scales, flesh and muscle with barely a pause. Red mist splattered from Lung, powerful veins releasing their pressure into the open air. Amplified even further at the cost of his own health, Greg grit his teeth and fought through the pain as much he could, raising his voice to match Lung's roar as he just kept cutting. [Burst!]
Mana Platforms were created and destroyed en masse as Greg ping-ponged off each one of them like a sword-wielding superball, moving so fast he could barely even keep himself in the directions he had planned on. It was a burst of speed he only poured more of himself into, his screaming voice that of pain and anger to drown out Lung's as his body protested the red glare he forced himself to weather. He was a blur of red, he knew that much, bursting off each hastily prepared platform at speeds nearing that of sound as they shattered around him and left each gash in Lung's chest sparkling brightly for a few seconds.
Throughout all this, he never stopped screaming and swinging his sword, a fearsome frenzy of storming steel and raging energy repeated five times over.
The last cut tore across both of Lung's massive legs with as powerful a rightward slash as Greg could feasibly manage, Gram screeching as it slid through layers and layers of super-dense flesh and armored scale.
Lung struggled to keep himself in the air throughout the barrage as his wings flared. The dragon's multitude of wounds rushed to heal at once as the villain found himself overwhelmed by the onslaught. As Greg's razor-sharp rave came to an end, Lung attempted to take that moment to escape, flaring his aura of blue, blood-boiling flames to ward off another attack, but Greg still wasn't done.
"[Dash Straight!][Weapon Charge!]"
With Gram in a two-handed grip, Greg brought the blade down on Lung's shoulder as hard as he could manage, glowing metal meeting superhuman scale and flesh with enough force to make his arms buckle.
Shining metal cut through layers upon layers of both scale and muscle with ease, only halting as it met bone. Half of the blade had sunk into Lung's shoulder for the single instant before Greg tore it free and stabbed it deeper again into the villain's body. The weapon sunk into the dragon's shoulder blade this time, and Greg's legs clung tightly to Lung's body with [Surface Adhesion] as Lung thrashed and bucked in the sky above his hellscape, newly regenerated wings beating like mad. Lung's corona burned hot, but Greg found himself ignoring the continuous melting of his armor in lieu of stabbing at Lung over and over like a man possessed.
Fueled by fury he thought he had repressed, Greg staunchly ignored the pain of his body being roasted alive. Instead, he screamed his own incomprehensible shouts at Lung, scrambling from position to position around the villain's neck to avoid Lung's claw swipes and wide, flaming mouth. His skin burned even with his own corona of fire fighting back the heat from Lung's own, the blood spraying from the dragon's back doing its part to fight the flames in it's own meager way as it steamed away. Greg did his very best to assist it as he introduced Gram to the villain's flesh as quickly as he could manage.
Naturally, the blade slowed as it met bone, not quite stopping but making it clear that it would take at least a few seconds for it to make its way through marrow. Seconds Greg didn't feel like he could afford as he continued to hack at every part of the bucking dragon's upper body and back he could feasibly reach.
Lung spun in mid-air, clearly not focused on flying as his neck coiled in on itself in desperate attempts to aim at Greg, the villain trying to blast him off his perch. Ignoring the repeated gouts and streams of blue-yellow flames that threatened to burn him alive as they passed just scant feet away from him.
Undeterred, the teenager clung to Lung's neck, dragging himself up as he plunged Gram in at various points to act as some sort of handhold. It's time to end this, was the thought that consumed him, Greg gritting his teeth as red notifications threatened to draw his attention away from the fight. Come on, Greg. Just like Darkness of the Titans. Climb. Stab. Rinse. Repeat.
The scream was his – all his – as he leapt up Lung's neck to grab hold of the back of the villain's head with one glowing palm. Gauntlet half melted around his left hand, Greg fought the sudden and immediate desire to scream even more as he held onto Lung's scaled ridges, the heat from them enough to blister his fingers immediately; the skin sizzling and blistering painfully on contact.
Still screaming as he hung onto the bucking, thrashing dragon for all he was worth, Greg brought Gram down again, the shining blade piercing through the side of Lung's jaw repeatedly with barely any resistance compared to what Greg had met with before. Lung's roaring scream was far more guttural and raw than Greg had heard since the fight began. Chunks of flesh were carved from the Changer villain's large, monstrous head, a deep groaning noise that only filled the blond teenager with a furious determination to go even further.
Lung twisted again, neck coiling like a snake as he flipped over in mid-air and beat his wings with all his might, flailing and rearing his draconic head up as he flew straight up over the burning plaza. The dragon sought to take them higher into the sky, into the clouds of ash and smoke rising from their infernal battlefield that blotted out the sun. High enough to make Greg think twice about continuing to cling to him as he soared higher..
[Inventory!]Greg dismissed his sword again, mind racing as he went over another idea and desperately hoping it wouldn't fall apart around his ears like so many others. He shifted his [Surface Adhesion] to the soles of his feet, rising to a position that looked more fitting on a surfer than a superhero as he stood up halfway on Lung's thrashing neck.
The wind spun around him, blowing in his ears as Lung flew up and down, sinuous body moving in ever-twisting circles as he flared his corona of hellfire to explosive levels hoping to dislodge the determined teen. In under a second, Greg's armor started to slag from the infernal blue heat radiating off the dragon, his greaves and sabatons melting, burning into his skin. Even as his helmet began to droop around his skull somewhat and the other metal pieces on his person only appeared as vague guidelines as to what they once were – all the cloth having been burnt to embers ages ago – Greg paid neither that nor Lung any mind as he brought his burned hands together, the half-molten metal only making such things even worse, and tried to focus.
It took several seconds before it formed like he expected, Greg having pulled and pulled at the metaphorical well inside him for all he was worth. The whirling wind around him seemed to still before suddenly returning to life, streams of blue-tinted air coalescing in the space between his outstretched palms. The young knight was unfazed by the movement of airas it all rushed towards him, the thrum of it becoming faster and faster and faster the more Lung moved until…
"Razor Wind…" It hung there, humming between burnt fingers and half-melted gauntlets, an idea he had stolen being brought to life. Winds that spun ever faster, sharpened farther, compressed into a smaller shape until he held in his hands a bulging sphere of fresh air and death that wanted nothing more than to be set free; to tear and rip whatever the blades inside it met to shreds. Fully in agreement with the idea, Greg let the thing go, screaming as he hurled the near translucent sphere down towards the space between Lung's wings. "Sphere!"
The noise of a screaming, buzzing windstorm and ear-splitting roars drowned out everything ele and the world around Greg became an ever-shifting downwards spiral. Lung dropped like a stone, spinning down towards the fiery hellscape he had flown above with one of his wings utterly torn to shreds and the other barely more than flaps of bleeding flesh and bone. Deep gashes ran down the entirety of his back and down to what remained of his tail, a bloody tempest still tearing its way down before it exploded again. Lung's roars were loud enough to shatter eardrums.
Teeth grit as he spun out with Lung towards the still-burning plaza, Greg resummoned Gram to his right hand and forced the blade into the side of the villain's jaw, the blue glow of his [Surface Adhesion] and the fire from his [Dragon's Flame Aura] spreading out over the surface of the weapon. Come on! Letting out an audible grunt, he tugged hard with the sword's hilt, dragging Lung's flailing and uncooperative head to the side as he did his best to steer the dragon into the hardest landing he could manage. Come on! Come ON!
The impact was an earthquake, crumbling already-ruined buildings, shattering what few windows remained for nearly half a block around and creating a crater in the middle of the plaza.
Greg shuddered with the landing, suffering the jarring stop of the sudden stop even as Lung took the vast majority of the crash. A final stuttering slide sent him falling from Lung's head, skidding across burning grass as he tried to blink the stars from his eyes. The sudden roar from behind him caught him off guard as did the pulse of his [Danger Sense]. Dazed as he was, the twin warnings were too late to save him as a seemingly insensate Lung reared to life, serpentine neck arching down from above him. Four-parted jaws caught him by the mid-section and Greg Veder screamed bloody murder as Lung's fangs crunched down on his torso. His sword moved in time with his flailing hands, blade sinking into the fleshiest part of Lung's mouth as quickly as he could manage.
Rearing back again, Lung shook his head from side to side, the villain hurling his unprepared attacker into the already-shattered wall of a burned-out convenience store. The attempt was far weaker than Greg would have ever expected from Lung, the blond barely even fazed all that much by the throw even as he was sent through another wall — likely his fifth since he woke up. If there was some kind of quota for this sort of thing, let there be no doubt that Greg Veder was the one meeting and exceeding it with ease.
The blond cape rebounded with a grace that only came easily to the casually superhuman capable of such feats of agility despite grievous, mortal injuries; flipping backwards and onto his feet again without a moment's hesitation as a stream of fire chased after him into the already wrecked building. Greg paid it no mind and rushed back out, his vision blurring as he burst out of the half-charred husk of a store to face Lung once again.
Greg Veder blinked.
Correction, to face a stumbling, weakened Lung.
The villain roared weakly at the sight of his much smaller opponent, body writhing and steaming as gouts of blood still poured from open wounds.
It was clear that Lung was still healing: the bubbling red skin under exposed scales as ribbons of muscle and corded flesh began to knit itself back together could be seen by the naked eye. His scales were in shambles, leaving a good chunk of his flesh unprotected; and virtually all of that open flesh was absolutely riddled with injuries. There were hundreds… no, thousands of them, maybe tens of thousands of those same shifting threads of muscle visible to Greg's [Keen Vision]. Lung's corded, inhuman flesh threaded itself together like a spider-web weaving itself into existence, drawing into a tighter and tighter configuration. One by one, they tensed, and a single wound drew shut.
One among so many others.
Even as his wounds slowly healed, a good portion of Lung's right arm still hung off at the shoulder, the limb still very much a stump for all that it was slowly regrowing its lost hand and fingers. It was no longer bleeding, but it was still a weakness… one Greg had delivered for that exact purpose.
His left knee was much in the same condition: the half-cleaved flank was in no shape for Lung to be putting any weight on it the way he was, having it support his massive body despite the leg looking like it would barely support someone a tenth Lung's size. Steaming blood gushed down his back while those shredded wings fluttered with barely any support, bleeding even further as the dragon's flesh stitched itself back together, bit by bit. His terrifying visage was rendered even more gruesome by the cuts and missing scales and blood drenched over the dragon's head and damaged horns. Not even a blind man would fail to notice the weakness on display from Lung. And judging by the simmering anger in Lung's gaze as he lumbered to keep Greg in his view, the Dragon of Kyushu knew perfectly well that was the case.
But Lung was not weak. He was still terrifyingly strong and cloaked in a corona of bright blue flames that burned everything they touched. It was hot enough to cook a man alive from even a distance, choking the air out of almost anyone's lungs before either smoke or actual flame could end them first. All that from a halo of devastating energy that steadily boiled the ground Lung stood on to magma and seared the sky as Lung's hatred spread through the battlefield to overtake everything with hellish blue flames.
The air around the dragon-man was hazy from the heat and everything around Lung possessed a mirage-like quality, so distorted by the blue fire that it was notable even amidst the blurry, smoke-dense air of this infernal battlefield. Amidst that distortion, even the heavily wounded Lung appeared like a monster conjured from nightmares.
One more big one. Greg centered himself, sword in hand as he took a determined step forward. He pointed a single half-charred finger at the lumbering beast over a dozen meters away. Power swelled within his chest as he called to memory the reasons he was here. All the pain and anguish and suffering he had experienced over the last few days and made that his determination. Anger swelled within him, and gave him strength. Here we go. [Aerokinesis] swirled around him before spreading outward along the path he wished to propagate the sound of his declaration.
"Do you see it, Lung? Can you finally see it?"
Lung let out another deep groan of a roar; one that didn't give Greg the feeling it was from pain or even anger, but more of simple exasperation. Anger or not, it didn't prevent Lung from launching several, bright blue fireballs the size of trucks at Greg.
"Just like the last time..." Greg whirled on his heels, the aura of red-orange flame surrounding his own body flaring as he drew on his [Pyrokinesis]. The first fireball was dealt with quickly as Greg pushed out with an open palm, the blaze suddenly flaring brighter only to dim an instant later, losing it's cohesiveness until it was nothing but a wisp long before reaching their target. The second and third were dealt with at the same time, Greg diverting the path of one before it crashed into the other, the resulting conflagration landing close enough that Greg had to force himself not to flinch from the sudden wave of heat. "You have to know…"
"That this fight…" He dodged another, letting it sear just past his head with a bright flash as the fireball struck home not too far behind him while the last, a dark-blue maelstrom of heat, Greg met head on; a curled hand screaming with compressed wind combined with his [Pyrokinesis] tore the thing apart and launched its remains back where they came from.
Lung paid the blast even less mind as it struck him, not caught off-guard this time by Greg's ability to manipulate flames, the much smaller fireball dissipating into tendrils of flame around Lung's corona as the dragon-man let out another tired roar.
"This fight was mine from the start!" Greg roared back, I mean, I fought in this fight so in a sense... it is mine. Not willing to let the pedantic part of his mind distract from his monologue, the cape in the partially-melted armor raised his sword arm – right limb still bleeding rather heavily – and traced an arc in the air as he brought it down again to point towards Lung.
"Because you see, Lung…" His left joined his right, both hands tightening around the hilt of Gram. An inhuman blue light bled over the normal hue of his eyes, Greg pulling up all his mana as he finally began to say what he had prepared. "This sword of mine glows with an awesome power!"
His fingers trembled from both pain and excitement as he pushed his [Reinforcement] as high as he could manage it. As all the Willpower he could manage flowed through his body and the sword, Gram's edge lit up with a brilliance Greg had never seen before. "Its burning blade tells me to defeat you!"
There was anger now, an audible rage reviving in Lung's bestial tone, as he squared his mangled shoulders, four-sectioned maw opening up and shaking the air with the force of his deafening roar, one silver-scaled fist scattering the dark tar that was boiled asphalt into the air as he pounded his limb into the ground and lurched furiously towards Greg.
"Take this!" Greg raised his voice again, gearing himself up."My hate, my pain, and all of my fury!"
He rushed forward, each step feeling like one too many as Greg poured on as much speed as he could manage.
[Weapon Charge!] He raised the glowing weapon as it shifted colors, Mana and Will flowing through the dragon-slaying sword. Greg's mind focused keenly on the target of his rage, and knew in that moment his sword's name meant Wrath, just as Lung began to move his lumbering form to meet his attacker faster than one might expect.
[Dash Straight!] What was formerly a run transformed into a charge, the air keening as he rocketed forward in a flare of golden light, Greg Veder flooding the weapon in his hands with all the power he had left.
With a burst of flame beneath him, Lung took to the sky.
[Burst!]With an explosion of red power surging through him, Greg did the same and shot to the sky, mouth still moving as he whispered the last syllable, calling the sword's name to unleash its power.
Greg lashed out with his sword far faster than he thought was possible for him to move — so quickly that even he could only see the trail of light it left behind. Yet his mind didn't even consider that speed as something of note for all of his attention was focused on Lung as the sword neared the dragon-man's midsection, aiming to carve out the villain's heart.
But Lung had twisted in flight, his one intact forearm ablaze with plasma-like blue fire, and ripping through the air with plasma-laden claws to shred Greg before his sword could land, obviously expecting to catch the other cape off guard. Lung's sudden roar of surprise went ignored by Greg as the blond instead shifted his trajectory to bring the sword down on the closest part of Lung he could reach, still screaming that one last syllable.
Greg struck first.
The world seemed to lose color and everything slowed down to a crawl as Greg felt the air around him thin appreciably. All the energy he had been channelling flooded into his sword, leaving the rest of him feeling rather empty for that instant as Gram took everything he had and used it to exercise the warrior's Wrath.. A vacuum of air formed along the back end of the blade as it swung down, while a pressurized force more concentrated than anything he could manage with simple air slowly - from his perspective - grew in size along the other, the very air seemingly condensed along its path.
To call it anything less than a thunderous impact would have been minimizing the sheer magnitude of what Gram had done when it struck the thickest part of Lung's arm with a coruscated shockwave of raw, directed force. The villain's fiery aura vanished the very instant Greg's sword met his scaled arm: those hellish flames blown out entirely as if the literal inferno of crematorial fire had been nothing more than a weak candle flame in front of an open window.
Then, the force…
Greg's eyes shut instinctively as Gram bucked in his grip, a sound unlike anything he had ever heard before sending an uncontrolled shudder through his bones.
Then the blast hit him back, and Greg blacked out.
Moments later when he forced his eyes open again, teeth grit as pain flared once more in his chest and back, he did so staring at the smoke-clouded sky as ash rained all about them, and fires continued to burn all around him. Straining from the protest of his muscles and ribs, he clutched his chest and pulled himself up off the ground into a sitting position with a frown, waiting for the pain to subside as it usually did.
He glanced around from where he sat, the charred, still-burning husk of Coventree Plaza meeting his eyes. Greg blinked, staring down at himself with confusion, only to raise his gaze again as he spotted Gram lying on a pile of burning debris just a few feet from him… What? How did I…
Blue eyes widened and the cape leapt to his feet like his life depended on it, only wasting a single moment to flinch as nearly every muscle and bone in his body flared with some sort of pain in response. Again, he did his very best to ignore that, pressing onward as he glanced around himself wildly.
It only took him a few seconds more to spot what he had been searching for.
The massive body of Lung's transformed state - or what remained of it, at the very least - lay in the center of the plaza, the bulk of him scattered atop the crushed stone of what used to be a rather large fountain. The dragon-man's halo of flame was gone not even a single candle's worth of fire flickered on his fires raging all around, which had seemed unending and sky-high just moments ago, had already begun to settle and burn what remaining fuel was left to burn with none of the intensity that had raged with during the battle for some odd reason.
It was almost as if the primary inciter of the blaze was no longer able to fuel it. Greg shook his head, fighting yet another flinch as his neck protested even that much, and simply let out a sigh. Please be dead… or at least, dying, he half-begged anyone that might be listening, retrieving his sword before tentatively making his way over. Is that too much too ask?
As Greg neared Lung's unmoving form, he realized that it didn't seem to be too much too ask at all. In addition to all the injuries that he hadn't had the time to fully heal yet, - wings, arm, knee and myriad, open wounds - Lung had sustained yet another in the form of a massive gaping laceration, like a giant had taken some jagged spoon and simply scooped out the parts he wanted. So much skin and muscle on his torso was almost entirely gone, the bones in the wound's path had been powderized to fragments, the shoulder and wing on that side of his body obliterated along with them while Lung's other arm was pulped to a new extreme. If the slash had gone any deeper or cut any further, Lung would have been completely bisected, from left shoulder to right waist.
In short, it was beyond gruesome.
Greg's eyes widened at the sight of the dragon-man; the fact that entire chunks of flesh were just gone from something as big as Lung was a sight that he doubted anyone would ever expect to see in their life.
I did this, he thought to himself, flames still crackling around him and the sound of sirens and movement even farther back. I did this to Lung.
The satisfied smile that spread across his face had nothing at all to do with the sight in front of him. No, Greg was sure that, instead, it had everything to do with the feeling of relief that passed over him as he realized that he was almost done with what he had set out to do. At least, that was what he told himself as he stared on at his own handiwork, refusing to acknowledge that warmth in his chest.
He also refused to accept the distinct disappointment he began to feel as he witnessed the sight of new and raw red-tinted flesh ever-so-slowly begin to creep its way over exposed bone and muscle. The sound of Lung's near-silent, yet labored, breathing itself also had nothing to do with the slight frown that threatened to overwhelm his previous expression or the tightening of his fingers around Gram.
Dragon Slaying Shockwave, huh? He shook his head as he continued to watch Lung's wounds slowly, slowly, slowly begin to scab over. It's literally in the name but nooooo~ I can't have this one thing.
Greg Veder let out a long sigh as he felt his Willpower and Mana start to return to him in steady trickles, the teenager flicking his gaze from Lung over to the torrents of water currently blasting down one side of the half-charred and still burning mountains of rubble. Firefighters… He blinked, remembering the near armada of red vehicles he had seen rushing down half-empty and still intact streets as he had made his way down to Lung.
If they're just now getting here then… Greg paused his thought, glancing over his shoulder at the farthest end of the plaza.
Former buildings, long collapsed into the streets leading in and out of the commercial plaza as their supporting structures surrendered to heat and force still continued to serve Lung's goal of separating this fight from outside interference. The distant siren of PRT vans, police cruisers and fire-fighting trucks were just audible from behind the ruins and barriers of debris and flaming wreckage. During the fight, they would have been impassable, Lung's power forcing the flames to such a level that they were more than simply dangerous, the environment alone enough to boil almost any cape of PRT officer in their spandex or armor.
They'll be here soon, he finished the thought with a deeper frown before turning his attention back to Lung. He wasn't surprised to realize they were so close, not really. They wouldn't have strayed too far from the fight in the first place. Now that the oven-like heat and the boiling tar of a street had settled almost completely to what they were before, they were bound to enter an area they couldn't risk before. It was what the city's official heroes would have to do in order to figure out what had happened, and apprehend both the villain and the vigilante that were stuck inside.
Greg Veder sighed, hoping that he wouldn't be stuck here when they arrived but right now, he doubted he could just up and leave without confirming something first. In fact...
Jesus Christ, where is it, already?
Another noise finally sounded off and the blond let out a relieved sigh, eyes closing for a moment before he opened them, glancing just inches above his normal line of sight. Fuckin' finally.
PERKS (NEW)Acoustic License
You don't have to be so loud.
Whenever someone is speaking to you within hearing distance, you can hear them as if they were right next to you.
Emphasis on the kinetic.
All [Air]-based abilities gain 10% increased damage in the form of knockback.
Neither a lefty or a rightie.
You experience no Damage or Skill reduction when attacking and defending with or using a melee, throwing or ranged weapon in your off hand.
High Speed Incantation
What was that? I didn't catch that.
If you so choose, you can say a Skill name in the space of about a second. However, anyone listening will hear it as gibberish if you want them to. Otherwise, they will interpret it to be heard as if you said the full thing in real time.
Pulling Out All The Stops (0/10)
Go beyond the limits... Limit Break!
For 1 minute, your WP and MP are unlimited. However, your HP drops to 0 after exactly sixty seconds.
Emphasis on the kinetic
All [Fire]-based abilities gain 10% increased damage in the form of knockback.
Rabbit of Caerbannog (0/5)
No ordinary rabbit.
You do 10% more damage against anyone who underestimates you.
Strength to Tear the Earth Asunder
Brace for Impact
Grit your teeth and take the hit.
When any knockback-inflicting strike is blocked, you are not knocked off your feet.
I'm trying to hurt ya, not kill ya.
Minimizes unarmed damage against targets that you do not wish to seriously hurt, dealing 90% of damage in the form of knockback that does not cause criticals or one-hit kills.
MY FISTS, THEY ARE MADE OF STEEL!
While you still feel the pain, you no longer take damage when exerting your strength against something more durable than you are.
Catch me as I fall!
If you're strong enough to hold an object when you catch it without hurting yourself, you can also catch it without hurting it.
Stand n' Strike
You can come to me.
Remaining in one place, you hit 10% harder against any opponent while taking 10% less physical damage.
Strength of the Dying (0/5)
The more you hurt me, the harder I hit you.
When your remaining HP is lower than 5%, you gain an effective STR bonus of 25.
"Let me just lift this bus by its rear bumper."
When you lift something that you're strong enough to pick up without hurting yourself, it doesn't matter where you grip it. You can lift and move it as a single unit, no matter how the internal stresses should cause it to break. It might still bend or even flop with movable joints, but as long as you can lift it, it won't break due to how you're holding it. This won't stop somebody else from breaking it.
Unstoppable Rage (1/4)
Rage is a hell of an anesthetic.
While angry to the point of causing a Status Effect, gain an additional 25% to STR and SPD at the cost of 50% INT.
Speed and Dexterity to Outpace Lightning
A focused mind is one that thinks ahead.
SPD is increased by 20% when attempting to block or parry.
I didn't even see it move...
Any blade in your hand seems to slice through the air with an unparalleled ease and a blurring speed, the edged weapon seeming to hum for some reason…
+50% Attack Speed with bladed weapons
Hey batter, batter.
Your SPD is increased by 25% when it comes to catching thrown projectiles.
How do you dodge a bomb?
Take 10% less damage from AoE attacks or attacks not targeting you.
Perfect Inner Ear
What's so hard about a tightrope?
Your physical body has improved to the point that even small things, like balance, have increased to the point of perfection, or as near to it as anyone could ever imagine. + 10 to Acrobatics
Turn on A Dime
It's easy to make turns if you have a dime to turn on.
When running or leaping, you can immediately turn or rebound once without losing any momentum or acceleration.
Unnecessary Combat Roll
"Unnecessary: (adj.) not necessary."
Whenever you attempt to dodge an attack by rolling or diving, you take 10% less damage if it hits.
Drive yourself up a wall
Whenever you consciously choose to spring up a wall, you instinctively and automatically wall-jump with no chance of falling, excluding external factors.
A Strong Foundation To Surpass Mountains
Blood Brings Victory
Spit in the face of your enemies and rise up.
Upon receiving a critical hit, gain 5 effective levels to the affected resistance, if possible.
Their pain is your burden and boy, is it a burden.
Removes harmful status effect from your chosen target by absorbing the negative status, inflicting yourself with a lesser version.
Growing Will (0/10)
Some people say you're rather willful.
Every time you gain a level, you gain an additional 5 Will for each rank of this perk.
I BREAK THINGS WITH MY FACE!
All critical attacks targeting your head are 50% less effective while melee attacks made using your head do 25% more damage.
Got one more left in me, I think.
After being knocked out once, you immediately regain consciousness with a portion of your Health and Will recovered and temporary bonuses to all physical stats and resistances. Can only be used once every 24 hours.
+ 20% Health
+20% to all physical stats (30 seconds)
+10% to all resistances (30 seconds)
Base-jumping without a parachute?
Reduce Blunt Force damage taken from all falls by 10% as long as you land on your feet. Sound easy enough?
Metabolic Acceleration (0/2)
What? I'm hungry.
All Heal-over-Time food bonuses gain a 200% increase in effectiveness in exchange for a 50% decrease in duration.
Mind and Matter
The mind is what separates a body from a corpse.
Meditation now recovers Health at the same rate as Willpower and Mana.
Gotta stay hydrated if you want to stay energized.
Increases the rate of Willpower and Mana recovery from [Beverages] by 50%.
Didn't feel a thing.
Your resistance to Blunt Force damage has grown to the point that you no longer can be stunned or made to flinch from attacks that do no damage.
Stand strong and face the world.
Your resistance to Blunt Force damage has grown to the point that you can now ignore all knockback from attacks that do no damage.
Understanding of Agony
It hurts, doesn't it?
Through first-hand knowledge and a growing appreciation of what it means to feel pain, you are able to cleanse your body of lesser maladies, trading away the essence of your life in exchange for such.
A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste
The more you know...
An immediate upgrade to Observe, this Skill grants you added knowledge on the subject in relation to other realms of knowledge you might already possess.
Keeping a calm head during a fight is often all you need.
Your experience gain increases by 90% due to your increased focus during battles.
The soul grows through suffering.
All Mana Skills increase in magnitude by 2% for every debuff active on you, up to 50%.
Darkvision Lv Max
It is pitch black but that doesn't matter to you.
Allows perfect night vision, regardless of the level of light.
Developed Mind (0/10)
I like to think of myself as enlightened.
Every time you gain a level, you gain an additional 5 MP for each rank of this perk.
Focused Control (0/5)
Focus often requires stillness...
When activated, this perk focuses the mind, reducing mana consumption by 50% for up to 15 seconds at the cost of near-total paralysis.
Yeah, you're… You're definitely well-adjusted… right?
Increases total mana by 10%
Instinctive Biofeedback (0/10)
Something something prana-musculature...
1% of your INT stat is added to your overall health regen rate.
"Huh…" Greg stared up at one particular item in particular as he slipped away from Lung's body, the clamoring of what sounded vaguely like either superpowers or explosives - possibly both - being used to clear apart the rubble in the street. He couldn't help but be thankful that the screens of his system maintained their position relative to him even as he leapt atop a burning rooftop and fell back down to the smoke-filled alley behind it.
Dismissing them as he skimmed over them, Greg passed over each screen as he moved through the back-alleys and snuck past the perimeter that had been set up a little over three blocks away. All of a sudden, the blond paused, eyes affixed to the screen as one specific pop-up caught his immediate attention.
Quickly, Greg found a hiding spot on the roof of a currently abandoned restaurant, crouched behind a smokestack to hide from the several colorful drones that seemed to be tasked with following after him, and read it again in disbelief, eyes widening slightly. Blinking rapidly, he shook his head, rubbed his eyes and leaned in closer as if his sight was suddenly betraying him.
As Greg Veder took a careful moment to read what was in front of him for the third time, even tapping on the screen for more detail, he couldn't quite help the calm smile that spread across his face. "Well, would you look at that…"
|Greg Lucas Veder|
|Age: 15 (and three-quarters!)||Title: Dragonbane Knight|
|STR||96 (+5) (+10) (+25)||SPD||95 (+5)|
|VIT||136 (+5) (+20)||INT||65|
|WIS||21 (-70%)||CHA||27 (+9) (-90%) [+15]|
|Stat Points: 53||Perk Points: 17|
Nerd-Geek Hybrid: Your obsession with video gaming, computers, fantasy/sci-fi literature and 80's/90's pop culture has left you in the rare middle of two circles; the obsessive fandom-loving geek and the intelligent, knowledge seeking nerd. Sadly, your hobbies have left you with an aversion to physical exertion. (50% bonus to INT gains, -50% penalty to STR, SPD & VIT gains.)
Baby Steps (1/3) [Ranked Skill]
Developed Mind (1/10) [Ranked Ability]
Growing Will (1/10) [Ranked Ability]
Sleep It Off
Swift Learner (2/10) [Ranked Ability]
Dragon-Blooded Knight [ACTIVE]
Gamer's Body (Passive) Lv. MAX
Cast from hit points. Yeah, it's one of those skills.
Cost: 20 Will, 40 HP
Subskill: Layer Reinforcement
Cost: 2 Will every 5 seconds.
Mana Barrier Lv 1
Some kind of force-field!
The power to generate and manipulate defensive fields of arcane energy as a projected construct of your Mana. When using this Skill, your barriers can negate and/or deflect all physical damage up to a certain level. Any damage above the negation level shatters the barrier immediately. [Warning: Strength of barriers can decrease proportionally and drastically with complexity.]
Cost: 50 Mana
Pyrokinesis (Basic) Lv 13
Burn, baby, burn!
Generate and control flames up to a range of 9 meters. Increases in range by 1 meter every other level.
Cost: 20 MP per second of sustained use at max range.
Surface Adhesion Lv 11
You ever wanted to be Spider-Man? Don't lie. Of course you did.
This skill allows you to stick to walls and hang on to ceilings and vertical surfaces without a risk of falling. While not denying gravity, this allows you to adhere to surfaces unaided.
Cost: 2 MP per second
Structural Analysis Lv 13
Judging the concept of creation, Hypothesizing the basic structure...
Grants the ability to gain a rudimentary understanding of the internal structure and functional design of simple, non-living objects.
Cost: 2 mp per square half-meter of object.
Subskill: Physical Analysis
Conceptually do twice as much damage with a weapon. Broken?
What's that mean?
Boosts weapon damage x 2.
Length of charge increases by 1/2 second for every level. (9 sec)
Cost: 8 MP
Acrobatics Lv 28
Anatomy: Intermediate Lvl 2
Cooking Lv 1
Intimidation Lv 8
Language: Spanish Lv 16
Manipulation: Mana (Limited) Lv 1