He pulled the trigger, and the bullets hissed above Ragna’s head. They splashed against Mimir’s arm and created a pop of crimson liquid. From the impact point expanded the blood. It crawled along the arm like a snake, enveloping Mimir’s shoulder blade. The liquid animal raised its head and attacked the mask.
Light erupted from the mask. The snake’s head evaporated, and with surgical precision, the ray scalped off the blood from Mimir’s arm. The giant raised his other arm when its movements stopped.
Altera rammed her partisan through the giant’s spine and cut him in half. Her rune activated, she changed her course and attacked Mimir anew. His body was falling, and with her weapon ahead, Altera charged and sliced through him multiple times. The giant’s strings tore, and his body parts dropped on the ice. Under their weight, the plateau cracked and broke apart. Mimir’s limbs sank into the sea, and Ragna froze the pools of water, closing them.
With her hand holding to her saber’s hilt, Ragna looked at the mask. It was still levitating in the sky, and the lower parts of the torso stuck out of the ice like a plant trying to bloom in the winter’s snow.
They had removed the main body, but Mimir had to have hidden abilities with the potential to turn the situation in his favor. After everything they had to endure during the previous levels, they couldn’t have already won. Even with the three of them working together, it would be too easy.
The mask lustered. The strings that made up Mimir’s spine shot out of the body. Like the legs of a spider, they expanded and penetrated the ice. They reconnected with the other strings, turned and twisted, reforming Mimir’s body.
His face Mimir locked onto Altera. She tried to fly out of distance, but she was too late. Mimir had already constructed the light. He was about to fire when a bullet splashed its blood on the mask. The face turned down to Eric, and the beam discharged. He jumped out of his way, but the light grazed her arm.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Eric’s screams blasted through the sky. Blood exploded out of his body and dripped from his orifices, forcing him to drop his gun. His body crouched in a fetal position as his fingers clawed against his arm and dug into his skin, trying to scoop out his flesh and nerves. The liquid sprouted into all directions and rained like a volley of arrows.
“Eric!” Altera tried to dash towards him, but the blood fell into her like a torrent. She danced around it when a beam of light missed her by a millimeter. And in the next moment, Mimir’s arm reached out to her. He had opened up his hand, tried to grab her, but Altera activated her runes and jetted between his fingers into higher altitudes. She evaded new blood rains, and the dance continued.
“How excellent. Young woman, your speed is formidable. I may not seek the spill of blood like some of my former brethren, but to be allowed to savor the thrill of combat after so long…You have my highest gratitude. So, please, young woman. Keep up.”
Lights erupted from the mask, Mimir swung his arms, his fingers attempting to crush Altera beneath their weight, and blood hit at everything not fast enough to evade it. Like a black rain, it had transformed the sky into a hazard. Scents of iron and copper started to infest the air. Altera dashed and flew in slaloms and loops between the arms, the light, and the blood. One misstep and the deathtrap would snap, and the onslaught of hostile elements prey at her at once.
On the ground, Ragna ran over the ice. If Altera couldn’t help Eric, then it was up to her to resolve the problem.
With her saber, she cut through the blood within her peripheral vision. A water carpet formed above her head, and Ragna headed towards Eric. His body convulsed and spasmed. He twitched like a dying fish as he screamed, and new blood exploded from his body to the sky.
The liquid bombarded the water carpet, punctured holes in it. Ragna patched it up with new batches of water. She closed in on Eric and cut through the last barrage of blood between the two. Her free hand froze to ice. She sheathed her saber, jump-dived and landed next to Eric.
“Sorry, but that’s going to hurt.” Ragna pushed her frozen hand into Eric’s face.
Eric screams stopped as the cold spread over his skin.
He let out a shriek. The blood fell and returned to his body. He moaned, and his chest heaved with each breath. His body shivered, and sweat glued his shirt to his skin.
“Thanks.” He looked up to Ragna. She offered him her hand and helped him to stand up.
Altera exhaled. Now, only Mimir’s body and light remained. A beam charged into her. Altera flew under it and evaded the ray. Mimir reached with his hand when rows of thorn stakes shot out of the ice and impaled the strings that made up his arms.
Mimir tried to move, but the stakes held him back. Another one grew and pierced the center of his spine. Now, he couldn’t move.
Altera soared into the sky. Thanks to the Fehu rune, she evaded the light beams until she faced the mask. She readied her partisan and dashed at what had to be Mimir’s weak point.
Two sets of double helixes expanded from Mimir’s back. They formed into arms, clenched the palms to fists, and charged at his enemy as well.
Altera tied to stop and change her direction, but it was too late to evade his punch. The fist hit Altera’s body and catapulted her to the ground.
Eric sent out a red liquid snake. It flew under Altera, expanded into a net, and encased her in a blood cocoon. A line connected Altera to Eric, and the cocoon flew back to him. He caught her in his arms and dispersed the construct.
“Thank you.” Altera keeled as a red dome covered them and closed them off from Mimir. Specs of skylight fell through the holes in the construct and illuminated the darkness within the cover while the ground started to rattle from Mimir’s attempts to free his body.
“The stakes will hold for now, but not for long. I can feel him breaking through.” Altera stood up. “So, let’s be quick. Eric, what happened there?”
Eric lifted his arm up and down, and his fingers shivered. Beads of sweat still formed on his forehead, running down his face. “When that light hit me, it felt like my nerves were on fire. My brain just went mad with pain, and I lost control of my Fylgja. I just wanted it to end.” He looked at his gun. “Honestly, if I hadn’t dropped this, I might’ve…”
Ragna gulped. “But you’re better, right?”
Eric nodded. “The memory’s still fresh in my mind. It’s kinda like phantom pain. But I can fight.”
“And that thing just grazed you. What’s up with that light, anyway? Is it some fucking pain inducer?
“I don’t think so. Or rather, it’s more than that. When Mimir used that light on us, we remembered what Ragna had done. That felt like he had activated our subconscious memories. If I had to guess, I think he can manipulate our brains and minds whenever he hits us. When that light grazed your arm, it manipulated your nociception system. The pain receptors of the hit nerves will send signals that make your brain believe it’s under immense pain.”
“Sounds like a pain in the ass.” Ragna groaned. “What can we do about it? I don’t wanna know what could happen if it hit my brain.”
“Mimir’s movements are slow. And with the Fehu rune, I can evade the lights, but you guys…”
“We gotta deal with the mask since cutting him up is useless. He can even grow new body parts.”
“I’m not sure about that. Mimir tried to prevent my blood from cutting off his arm.”
“Maybe it’s a hassle?” Ragna crossed her arms. “Like, it’s not the end, but it reveals some weakness or gives us the edge.” She looked at Eric. “And, since we’re at it. What’s your Fylgja all about?”
“The name’s Qvasir. It allows me to manipulate my blood however I want.”
“So, it’s like my Ura rune. You can control your blood like how I control my water. Any limits or weaknesses?”
“Well, if I run out of blood, I’m done for. I’ve around 6,5 liters in my body, and I can use up to 6 liters before I kick the bucket. But, by using Mana, I can regenerate blood or increase my Fylgja’s volume. Course, if I run out of Mana, then I’m a goner. But that’s impossible here, so my blood’s basically endless.”
“And the gun?” Altera asked.
“I filled it with blood bullets.”
“What?” Ragna eyed Eric’s gun. “I’m no gun expert, but I’m sure that sounds like bullshit.”
“Dunno what to tell ya? My Fylgja knows how to imitate bullets. From the explosives in the primer to the full metal jacket: It behaves exactly like a real one. Except that I can manipulate its form once fired.”
Ragna rolled her eyes. “Magic blood bullets. Bullshit science. Whatever, as long it works…”
“The stakes are about to break. Let’s make use of them while they’re still holding him back. Anyone wants to discuss tactics?”
Ragna shook her head. “That’s just my gut, but I think they expect us to work together and adapt on the fly. We gotta trust each other and predict what the other will do. Still, I think it’s for the best that I fight on the ground since I can’t slip on the ice. Altera takes on the sky, and Eric…You better stay stationary. I can’t promise that you won’t slip up.”
“Don’t worry about that.” Eric smirked. “I think I can work around that problem.”
The dome opened, and Altera jetted into the sky. At the same time, Eric swung his arm. He released his blood and shaped it into a crescent form, repeating the move in succession. Multiple slashes flew from him at Mimir. In response, his mask shone and fired a light beam. The blood exploded, its droplets scattered, and landed all over the ice lake.
As Altera had closed the distance to the giant, her partisan started to glow and shot an ice beam at Mimir. Unable to divert his attention back in time, the ice hit the mask. His face froze, and the cold traveled down the strings. Ragna turned the water around Mimir to ice as well. It cut through his torso, and she opened it again. Mimir’s upper body sank into the depths of the ocean, and Ragna sealed the sea shut.
“Have we won?” Ragna looked at Altera. She hovered in the air, and her eyes switched from one place to another, trying to anticipate Mimir’s next move.
“You have not.” The sky gleamed, its azure turning to a bleached white. From above Altera’s head, a ray of light dropped and contaminated her body. “Dead mask light.”
“Altera.” Ragna’s eyes enlarged, and she ran to her friend.
But it was too late.
Altera’s screams raced through the air, and her flight became erratic like an insect’s.
Bolts of ice discharged in all directions, forcing Ragna to stop in her tracks and dive-jump. Rose thorns erupted from the ground, and Ragna jumped out of their way. New rows of stakes emerged. Their numbers grew within seconds and turned the frozen lake into a forest of thorns, trying to impale anyone their tips could catch. And from the sky, ice splinters showered down.