The battle continued, the six of us on top of the mountain partially shielded by Galeru - partially put in the line of fire because she was there.
Lun’Kat soared up high, so high that I could barely see her. Then, wreathed in flames, she descended like a meteor onto Etalix.
I didn’t think there was a skill involved – just sheer bulk, speed, stats and physicality.
Etalix exploded into Mist again, but the mountain he’d been standing on was annihilated by the sheer force of Lun’Kat’s impact. “Small” rocks the size of villages went flying everywhere, the earth shook from the impact, and a boulder the size of Ranger Headquarters came spinning towards us.
Galeru lazily flickered her gigantic rainbow tail towards the boulder, shattering it.
Causing thousands of high-speed stones to rain down on us, deadlier than any skill Artemis could produce.
I tried to shield and dodge the best I could, but end of the day, it got ugly. Drin and Fik took up a defensive stance, shielding the rest of us, and Fik used his magic – which I now recognized as Gravity – to grab and haul the worst offenders out of the way.
I threw up a complicated [Mantle], woven with dozens of holes in it. My goal was to block the largest pieces of stone still flying at us, even as Fik frantically moved them out of the way.
Between Drin and Fik’s physical shields, my magical shield, and Fik deflecting the majority of the deadly projectiles, we were “only” rained on by the “little” stones.
Enough rocks to kill a normal person by stoning, but none of us were normal. We all had armor on, and between my healing and Ned’s meager contribution, we survived. Broken bones were almost immediately re-knit, and some large dents in our armor was the only evidence left.
We survived the side-effects of a Guardian deflecting the after-effects of a dragon’s purely physical attack.
Toke needed to dig that hole faster. Although, the evidence was clear – not even an entire mountain was enough protection, not if Lun’Kat decided to remodel.
It was a little hard to see the sky, because of Galeru’s constant green Lightning attack. Lun’Kat roared again, and beasts and monsters from myth and legend peeled off of her. Griffins and Wyverns, Rocs and Vermillion Birds, all made out of constellations, bright, starry, and shimmering, all were summoned with every flap of her deadly wings, and engaged the Guardians.
Asura simply released a beam of Radiance from her horn, piercing the constellations sent after her, while a fan of Lightning came from Etalix, disintegrating his attackers. The griffin and other entities sent after Yurok somehow, in spite of being made out of stars, seemed to age, sicken, and die, while Galeru’s tail went from rainbow-colored to a shimmering mirror and slapped an attacking flock of wyverns, returning them to sender. The wyverns tried to attack Lun’Kat, but they were all killed in a single burst of dragonfire.
Still, the attack had distracted the guardians, forced them on the backfoot. Lun’Kat used the moment of distraction to devastate the country, burning and razing as she pleased.
To say she held a grudge was understating it a hair. I was all on Team Guardian at this point – Team Dragon seemed to want nothing more than to devastate everything she saw, while Team Guardian seemed to be “stop that.”
A rift tore open the sky, and high-pressure water sprayed out, directly hitting Lun’Kat, slamming her down. All manner of fish, sharks, and other deep-sea creatures poured out through the rift. There was even a small kraken, who immediately started to struggle and flail as it went from the bottom of the ocean, to the middle of a mountain range. I couldn’t help it. A manic giggle escaped my lips.
Heh. Fish outta water.
[*ding!* You are in the prese-]
A System notification was aborted as Lun’Kat summoned a shimmering ribbon made of an Aurora Borealis, and whipped it around, slicing through the rift, forcing it to collapse. The Aurora-whip continued on, barely slowing from destroying the rift, and sliced clean through a half-dozen mountains, forming brand-new passes all throughout the range. Skinny, narrow, impossible passes - but the fact that I could see them from mountains and miles away suggested they were significantly wider than they seemed.
I had no idea it was even possible to abort a System notification. They’d always seemed to instantly show up for me, but the evidence in front of me suggested otherwise.
With a speed that was unbelievable for its huge size, one of the mountains that had gotten cut by the Aurora-whip, much deeper in the range and hardly touched otherwise by the epic battle that was occurring, stood up.
I could see the ripples race through the earth as the local part of the planet rearranged itself to a mountain standing up, tectonic plates shifting and stone splintering as a secondary shockwave traveled behind it.
A creaking groan, the sound of the earth itself standing up, washed over me as the soundwave hit. I braced myself with some of the dwarves, and managed to stay standing up.
The giant looked pissed, and given that some of the starfall bombardment had hit him, I would be too. With three steps, each one shaking the earth hard enough that I felt it from mountains and miles away, he stepped from mountain to mountain, striding to Etalix. Instead of helping him, he gave Etalix a mighty kick - one that went straight through him, as he turned into Mist and reformed himself on another mountain.
The giant wasn’t done though, as he turned on Lun’Kat, and with a hand the size of a town, swatted her out of the air, down to the ground.
With that, the sky flickered.
I looked up.
The baleful red of the moons no longer washed over the battlefield. The ominous eyes no longer stared at me. Instead, two pale orbs hung where the moons were. One pale yellow, the other a pastel blue.
The pieces clicked.
The dragon’s familiar eyes.
Mirage and Celestial elements.
A title of “The Deceiver”.
The Dragoneye Moons were an illusion, cast by Lun’Kat! A mirage, coating the moons. A casual display of immense power, a flex, demonstrating Lun’Kat’s superiority, how she was always there, always watching, an apex existence.
I stared down, at Lun’Kat, who was recovering on the ground. Bleeding.
With a scream, raw and primal, loud enough that once it hit from over a mile away it still blew my eardrums - again - Lun’Kat flew up at the giant.
I didn’t know much about dragons, but she looked pissed.
She opened her mouth, and shimmering, silvery flames exploded out like a lance, burning through and bisecting the giant, who dropped like a sack of potatoes.
A mountain-sized sack of potatoes that took 15 seconds to fully fall, sending waves rippling through the earth, destabilizing our footing, causing us to grab onto each other to stop ourselves falling.
Fortunately, our mountain hadn’t gotten knocked over yet, and I couldn’t quite believe that was a real problem we had to be concerned about.
The giant’s arm weakly came up as he was lying down on the ground, filling in a valley with his bulk.
I cursed as I realized he wasn’t dead.
My fucking [Oath] was going to get me killed, wasn’t it? This was the end of the line for me.
I started to run down the mountain, ignoring Lule’s cries for me to stay with them.
I had never hoped for another intelligent, living creature to die when it wasn’t trying to harm me before. Even as I reached Galeru, and her wall of shimmering scales, I was praying that the giant would die, pretty please, and free me from my self-imposed and totally futile obligation to help.
Even with all my mana, with all my Arcanite, there was no way in hell I could save the giant. There was no way I could even get to him in time, not with needing to cross a mountain and change before he bled out. I couldn’t start to heal on the scale of the injuries. Maybe if it was, like, missing a fingertip or something I could help.
And, of course, Galeru was wrapped around the mountain, the massive rainbow serpent another obstacle. It only took a few minutes of running at top speed, dodging falling trees and jumping over secondary fires, to reach the first set of coils that I’d need to cross to reach the giant.
I looked at the wall of flesh and rainbow scales, trying to figure out how to get over them, hoping that Galeru didn’t shift or get hit, which could easily crush me under her. She wouldn’t even notice.
A pillar of starlight came down from the skies, roughly where the giant had fallen. I felt relieved. The giant was likely dead, and I was free from my attempt to heal him.
I eyed Galeru’s massive body.
Fuck it. It was likely I died here, but if not, I was going to get myself some crazy experience.
I dashed forward, touched her body, and with the worst image possible, applied a [Solar Infusion], then pushed a [Dance with the Heavens] through her.
I also flickered [Shine] briefly, figuring with all the illusions running around I might randomly hit one and get some experience. At the same time, I didn’t want to attract attention, hence only doing it when sheltered by Galeru, where it could just be another twist of her scales causing the light; where it’d be drowned out by her lightning.
My mana instantly zeroed out, and I was hopping back and running up the hill, refilling my mana from my Arcanite reserves.
Lule met me as I was jogging back up the hill.
“Fool! Why!?” She yelled at me, grabbing my arm and pulling me along, back up the hill.
“Have to heal.” I gave a curt answer.
“Even if it costs your life!?” She yelled back.
My answer was calm, serene. I’d accepted my fate. With my lifestyle, with how I acted, with my impending immortality skill, there was only one way my life would end.
Dying as I ran to heal someone.
When accidents were removed, when old age, disease, and cancer were gone, the only end for me was a violent one.
Or a really, really complicated accident. Given my lifestyle, violently was where a smart girl put her money.
Well, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be able to collect, not unless there was another accident with my soul and I got another do-over.
We made it back to the summit, and my eyes were drawn to Etalix, shrouded in a rapidly expanding swirl of rain and clouds.
“Hurricane!” I yelled, as the swirl exploded into a full-force typhoon, stretching to blanket the mountains, blinding us with winds going hundreds of miles per hour and battering us with sheets of freezing rain.
“Get into the shaft!” Lule yelled, and the rest of the dwarves started clambering feet-first into the mineshaft.
No idea if Toke was done expanding it enough for us to fit, but at this point, being stuck in a mineshaft seemed to be safer than staying on the summit. The dwarves slipped through one at a time, Lule helping them through, acting as the rearguard. Boldly making sure that all of her charges were safe before getting to safety herself. A true leader.
[*ding!* You are in the presence of Guardian Ho-O, The Conflagration].
I could see white bursts occurring deeper in the storm, and Lule got bowled over by a chunk of ice hitting her square in the head.
It was just us two on the peak - the rest of the dwarves had already bailed down the shaft. I ran over, cursing Etalix and the clouds for hiding the moons, preventing [Wheel of Sun and Moon] from working.
I really needed to remove all my restrictions on my healing.
At the same time, [Cosmic Presence] was doing work. There was almost no bleeding, and I slipped on the icy, slick rocks, arriving at Lule’s side.
I threw more healing into her, [Dance with the Heavens] still a solid touch-skill, and she groaned as she sat up.
“Move!” I yelled at her, and we supported each other as we tried to get to the shaft.
Something had inserted a crapton of Ice into the fight, and since magic was magic, instead of dispersing, the hurricane was now throwing around freezing water and ice, which was adhering to, and freezing, the slick rocks on the summit.
Somehow, I doubted that anything called The Conflagration was responsible for Ice. Then again, I couldn’t see what else could be causing it.
The storm blew one of the Pyronox dragonlings into us, and it squawked, seeing prey. It breathed Pyronox flames on us, even as I tried to blast it apart with [Nova] and beams of Radiance.
Damn storm ate half my attacks.
Ice cracked as Lule ripped stones from the mountaintop and threw a barrage into the black flames. The stones just rippled through… and a moment later came right back to pelt us as the storm grabbed and redirected them.
Normally, I’d just tank lightly thrown stones and let myself heal. A bruise, a broken bone at worst, wasn’t worth the mana cost of shielding.
Problem was, with the icy, slippery footing, I was concerned about slipping, falling, at which point I’d lose all control.
I [Mantle]’d it, at the same time the dragonling blew Pyronox flames at us. Two birds, one stone!
Except for the flames sticking to the [Mantle], and my mana starting to drop at an alarming rate. I canceled the [Mantle], expecting the flames to vanish.
No. Of course not. These were dragonfire, derivative or not. Something as mundane as being in an icy storm, with rain pouring on them and lacking any fuel source wasn’t enough to stop them. They surged forward, blown by the wind, onto Lule and I.
Onto just Lule. She moved at the last moment, pushing me out of the way and throwing herself in front of the flames, getting coated by them. Just like I’d jumped in front of Toke. Then the dragonling continued, blown past, and was gone, out of range, out of reach, of the two of us.
The black flames started to surge and spread, greedily devouring Lule’s armor and spreading to her beard and face as she stoically tried to beat the flames out.
“Strip!” I yelled at her, making the snap call to thrust my left arm forward and touch her, pumping healing mana into her.
Lule grabbed at bits and pieces of her gear, throwing burning chunks of living wood everywhere. I was careful about the flaming pieces and [Mantle], only briefly flickering it up to stop a piece hitting me.
Yet the black flames spread across her body, over her head, down her legs.
Touching my hand, starting to spread up my arm.
I looked at my hand through the flames, seeing that it was still whole, still perfectly intact - even though my mana was dropping rapidly, as the flames consumed my flesh, only to be instantly restored.
They started to lick forward, hitting my vambrace.
My vambrace - full of gemstones.
There was a snap, a crackling of energies, and a [Nova] exploded out, impacting and immediately exploding on my arm as the Pyronox ate into and destabilized the gem. It wasn’t a full explosion, it wasn’t as strong as it could be, and it was one of my smallest gems, located on the edge.
Still, it made it clear that my gemstones were now a liability, and I fired off all of my [Nova]’s with the wind, making sure they wouldn’t blow back and hit me.
The wind and icy rain extinguished them rapidly, a brief moment of heat the only remnant.
“Go!” Screamed Lule. “Leave me!”
“No!” I yelled back.
She didn’t answer, but collapsed to the floor, screaming and writhing as she was consumed.
She clawed at her face as she screamed, her flesh soft and melting like putty. Her thick fingers were able to dig deep into her flesh, and just pull chunks of her burning face off, flames rushing to fill in the gap even as my mana healed and restored the lost flesh.
She tried to levitate stone from around her, to encase herself in rock. More than a few stones tried to get through me, and I was once again thankful for my armor, even as my arm got crushed by her manipulation.
I ripped my arm free, once again free of dragonfire, and restored my hand. I didn’t hold it against Lule at all, she was trying everything to survive. Given how my hand was now free of flames, it had a strong shot of working.
Then again, everything on fire had been amputated, which helped.
For a moment it looked like her self-created tomb worked, that she’d smothered the flames. Then brown stone turned black, and the flames burst forth once more, casually consuming the rocks.
There was a pop as fat in her abdomen finished liquifying, then the water boiled over and exploded out of her. Sizzling filled the air, so loud I could hear it over the flames, and I redoubled my vow to never ever eat pork again.
I went to a knee, putting a hand on her, trying to burn through the flames with Radiance, seeing if I could somehow combat them. I drained the mana out of my Arcanite, pushing things longer, further.
Trying to smother the flames with [Mantle].
Rolling her on the ground. Awkward, when I was only using one hand. I refused to let my other hand catch fire.
It was only when my mana dropped to nothing, and Lule stopped moving did I get up. I felt terrible. All I’d managed to do was prolong her suffering. What would’ve taken seconds had instead been a prolonged session of torture and agony, as I made her burn alive – and consciously – for far longer than was needed. However, I would need to mourn her properly another time. I looked down at her with sorrow, then turned to myself, and the black flames that were now past my elbow.
No idea why they’d gone slower on me than on Lule, but I wasn’t going to complain. Maybe it was a limitation on the skill? It had generated dozens, if not hundreds, of the little Pyronox dragons, who were breathing deadly cursed flames all over the place, each of which resisted everything that could be thrown at them. Perhaps poor chaining was the reason the entire world hadn’t burned down already.
Healing hadn’t worked, time, cold, water, starving it of air - nothing seemed to work on these cursed flames.
The only thing that had given them pause was amputation.
Welp. Nothing for it.
I turned off my [Persistent Casting] of [Dance], and drew my sword. I looked at my arm, breathed in once, twice, steeled myself, and swung, awkwardly trying to hack my arm off at the bicep.
The bad angle, a short sword meant for stabbing, with no real edge to it, and my low strength relative to my vitality made it an ugly, ugly job. That was before the mental aspect of “I’m cutting my own arm off!” started to yell at me. I was starting to feel woozy and light-headed from the blood loss, as I added yet another problem to the storm.
The bone was extra-hard to hack through, and I’d been contemplating trying at the shoulder, where there was the joint, when I managed to make it through.
Still, with my arm off, I’d regenerated enough mana to do a small heal, closing off the wound, and restoring my blood.
I was going to need every drop of mana for what came next.
I gave one last regretful look to my arm, picked up and tossed by the wind, and turned towards the mine ventilation shaft. I sheathed my sword, and one-handedly picked myself up, preparing to drop down the shaft.
Then the wall of the hurricane passed, and I got a brief moment in the eye of the storm.
Lun’Kat was still high in the air, superior, dueling flames with a bird-like creature made out of pure flames.
A Phoenix. Ho-O.
Yurok was continuing to emit gas, tendrils of the noxious poison reaching out like hands to grasp Lun’Kat, who casually ignited it with normal flames. As “normal” as dragonfire was anyways. The flames roared down the poisoned spores, back to Yurok, causing explosions the entire way down.
Ashen spears rained from the Phoenix, magical missiles fired from the Unicorn, surrounded by mandalas, green Lightning arced from Galeru, and icy missiles descended with alarming regularity from the sky, striking indiscriminately.
Lun’Kat shrugged off nearly every attack, elements sliding off her shimmering black scales, roaring dominance. Flames roared and consumed as far as my eyes could see, from the walls in the north to beyond the horizon in the south, heedless of the pouring rain and cold. A burning hellscape, brought to Pallos, choking and smothering with the thick smoke being poured into the atmosphere.
It was like the world had ended.
In the eye of the storm, in one of dozens of areas cleared out by the fight, a pyramid of sand rose. Taller and taller, until it was almost the size of one of the redwoods. Then it crumbled and collapsed, and a strange creature was revealed.
It was a gigantic turtle, but instead of a tail, there was a viper. Both heads were locked onto Lun’Kat. It was at least 40 meters tall, and significantly longer before the snake half came into play.
A Xuan Wu. Just as legendary as a phoenix, just as mythical as a dragon.
[*ding!* You are in the presence of Guardian Hebai, The Mountain].
My hair rose around my head, as a pillar of Lightning, nearly as wide as a town, descended from the sky, directly onto Lun’Kat, blinding me.
Without the ability to see or hear anything, and having been strongly reminded that I had no business there, I dropped down the shaft that Toke had made, only for local gravity to increase an insane amount.
I could only hope that the shaft led to safety, and that the rest of the dwarves had made it to safety.