Chapter 57 - The Corruptor’s Realm XI
Claire kicked off the ground and closed the ten-meter gap in the blink of an eye. She was caught off guard by the sheer force of her acceleration; the sudden lack of distance threw her off-balance and messed up her aim. It was only the second time she had dashed at her new top speed and she had yet to grow accustomed to the environment suddenly turning into a blur.
The blind rush’s target was equally as startled. He barely managed to react, opening his eyes wide before spinning around and wildly flailing his staff. As a deterrent, the haphazard attack was effective. It forced Claire to duck and slice at the borrok’s legs instead of going for his vitals. Not that it would have mattered. Neither blade proved capable of piercing the monster’s fur. His hairs were tough and slashing them felt no different than cleaving at a suit of armour. There was even a bit of a metallic clink, a clear indication of the halfbreed’s failure.
Looping around to the bug-monkey’s rear, the rogue attacked it thrice before having to retreat out of its reach, but again, she failed to deal any notable damage. Both her slashes were repelled; only the stab that followed was able to nick its skin and draw a single drop of blood. It was a tiny, insignificant wound. A major success.
The corruptor had attempted to retaliate with magecraft. Like Apply Force—and just about every other combat-grade spell—the borrok’s Icebolt was chantless and didn’t require any concentration on the caster’s part. Declaring it was all that was needed to actualize the magical effect. But actualization was hardly the final step. Aiming was. And aiming just so happened to be the sort of process an untimely sneeze could easily disrupt.
“Soarspore poison…” the borrok wrinkled his nose as he wiped the parachute-laden seeds off his face. The warriors had been immune to the toxin, but the corruptor lacked their insect-like heads. His mammalian respiratory system left him vulnerable and exposed.
The half-lamia didn’t confirm or deny his guess, her only response a quiet, satisfied smile. It didn’t matter if he knew. Knowing would not save him from its effects.
Switching her poisons to quicksilver and rocket fuel, she lunged again, but her foe didn’t fall for the same trick twice. She was forced to roll out of the way as a massive icicle materialized an inch in front of her nose. It lacked momentum, but it would have skewered her either way had she not rolled to the side; her own speed had almost become the cause of her death.
Diving to the ground had allowed her to avoid the immediate threat, but the ice mage was by no means green enough to set only a single trap. A second set of projectiles spawned beneath her right before she landed.
Claire was able to save herself from being impaled by spinning her body horizontally, but she couldn’t fully avoid the sharpened, wintery blades. Rolling over them, she found her hood torn off, her flesh pierced, and her torso lined with deep, bloody gashes.
The force mage wasn’t given any time or room to recover. Raising her head, she found that she was surrounded by a hail of icy blades. They were gathered around her in a loose spherical formation, with each spear firing as soon as it was fully formed. The lack of synchronization allowed her to dodge some and parry others, but even with her newfound speed, she was unable to stop every blade from finding its mark.
One ended up in her thigh, another in her gut, and yet another in her bloody flank. Even worse than the cage-like set up was the rate of replacement. Every projectile that was expended had its place immediately taken by two others. If not for the horse on her shoulder, she would have met an inevitable demise.
Activating the deformed pony’s vacuum-like capabilities, she consumed the mage’s spell and relocated before he could recast it. It wasn’t a desperate measure, by any means, but it also wasn’t one she could mindlessly abuse. With her spirit at its current value, destroying a spell not of her own making required her to expend nearly twice as much mana as its caster, and breaking free of the icicle prison had eaten nearly a fifth of her total.
“You es—escaped?” said the borrok, with a sneeze. “I was sh—sure that would kill you.”
Having gotten over the shock borne of her speed, his voice was calm and controlled. Save for when his nostrils flared.
“You were wrong.”
Claire threw both her daggers and forced the man to either dodge or intercept as she drew her mace and charged. Moving out of the way, he tried to interrupt the rush as he had the one preceding it, but his efforts were to no avail. Having anticipated the attack, the halfbreed knew not to overreact. Craning her neck, she evaded the would-be fatal blow by the skin of her teeth and continued to close the distance.
The wall of ice he set up between them also failed to deter her. She smashed right through it with a swing of her two-handed weapon before jumping at him and striking him on the head. It was a heavy impact, but the halfbreed’s attack was nowhere near as effective as planned. His skull remained uncracked, even after a direct blow.
Another sneeze provided her the opportunity to deliver a second, more powerful strike, but that too was impotent. All she managed to do was knock his head around. He didn’t suffer any obvious external injuries and she was forced to retreat before she could launch a third attack.
The borrokian mage drove her away by blasting a wave of spikes in all directions. She could have endured it, but she didn’t want to trade blows, at least not when she felt that hers were unlikely to prove effective.
“You can’t hurt me,” said the borrok.
Hardly a minute had elapsed since the battle had begun, but the soarspore poison was beginning to lose its effect. The borrok’s body was fighting it off, despite Envenom dictating that its toxins weren’t meant to dissipate in combat. His sneezes had been reduced to tiny, insignificant sniffles. “Give up now, and I still might let you go.”
He had a smug smile on his face, a sign that he was practically bursting with confidence.
And that was exactly why she got him. Clenching her toes, she pulled both her discarded daggers towards her feet. Straight into the back of his ankles. Unlike her weak physical attacks, her magic-fueled strikes were more than heavy enough to pierce through his defenses.
The borrok groaned as his legs buckled and gave out beneath him. Claire was tempted to take the opportunity to mock the cat-eared monkey, but she wasn’t stupid enough to waste the chance to follow up her attack. Dashing back up to him, she bashed his right arm with her mace, over and over until his fingers finally loosened. Once his grip was weakened, she cast her weapon aside and replaced it with his, magically pulling it right into her hands.
Depriving a mage of his staff was nowhere near as crippling as robbing an archer of his bow. A magical implement was not a strict requirement, pure caster or not. It was just an add-on whose purpose was to facilitate and enhance. Stealing it would still serve to hamper its owner, but that was hardly why Claire had opted to disarm her foe. She was much more interested in the offensive prowess its sharpened tip offered.
Wielding it exactly as she would a spear, Claire stabbed the bladestaff straight into the borrok’s rib cage. It ran him all the way through; more than half the icy fang erupted from his back, accompanied by a spray of sickly yellow blood.
She tried twisting it and wrenching it out the side of his body, but he froze his own flesh to hold the pike in place. Claire placed a foot on his chest in an attempt to get a better grip, but a blast of cold air, filled with bits of shrapnel, forced her to let go of the weapon and retreat to safety.
He grabbed the staff’s stone shaft as she backed away, and in one swift motion wrenched it from his breast. The thick, goopy flow that spilled from the fresh chest wound stopped as soon as it started. He froze his upper half, effectively cauterizing the wound with a layer of frost. And he didn’t stop there. Channeling his power through the true ice, he created a thick sheet of dark blue armour spanning the full length of his body. No part was left unguarded. Even his face was entirely obscured.
“I should have just done this from the start,” he said. “I don’t know why I held back.”
He sounded tired and annoyed, but not hurt. He didn’t stutter or wheeze, even though she was sure she had nearly destroyed one of his lungs.
“Because you’re an idiot,” said Claire. And so am I.
“Maybe I am.” The monkey chuckled.
She pulled her mace into her hands and reapplied its noxious coating as she stared him down. Unlike a traditional suit of armour, whose joints could easily be exploited, the borrok’s magical aegis was a single cohesive structure with no obvious gaps or faults. It didn’t even seem to have an opening for air. She didn’t know how he was breathing, or how his words were reaching her.
“But that is just the borrok way.”
He raised his staff and waved it to create a thousand icicles, a wall of sharpened blades as wide and tall as the room. There was nowhere to dodge, nowhere to go. The moment he launched it was the moment she would be skewered.
The halfbreed almost defaulted to relying on Shoulderhorse, but stopped short as she noticed that there was more than just one layer. Three were being formed. Defending with the pony’s anti-magic was impossible. It could only consume entire spells, not bits and pieces, and negating a magical phenomenon capable of covering the entire cellar could very well eat through more mana than she had. If that were to happen, Shoulderhorse’s ability would backfire; the guardian would implode and leave her without the body part that was its namesake.
Left with no obvious solutions, Claire opted for something more creative. She dashed straight out the room’s door and ran down the hall. She was tempted to hide in one of the rooms, but such a choice would have been a risky gamble at best. If the corruptor’s spell sped up when passing through ice, then she would be dead in a heartbeat. Even with her newfound speed, she found herself struggling to duck and weave past his other projectiles. A bonus to their velocity would leave her with no chance at survival. Likewise, standing out in the open may as well have been a death sentence. She would have to dodge or parry every projectile that came her way for even the slightest hope of survival.
Standing at the end of the hall provided the best of both worlds. If the projectiles were sped up, she would just have to meet the ones that passed through the door head-on. If they didn’t, she could dive into a nearby room and effectively rid herself of the need to deal with the barrage. Whatever the case, the halfbreed was ready to deal with the magical attack.
But it never came.
The mage cancelled his spell and pressed the bloodied tip of his staff against the floor. A moment later, the ground was covered in half a meter of ice. Everything in contact with the ground was frozen in place. And Claire was no exception.
She was encased from foot to thigh, trapped where she stood. Her legs wouldn’t budge, no matter how much she struggled.
Only the borrok was still capable of locomotion. His steps were slow, confident. He was well aware that she couldn’t break free, that the technique she had used to negate his signature spell had some sort of limitation. There was no other reason for her to flee as she did. He had her in check, with his lack of mana the only potential problem. The combination of his armour and his domain rendered his regeneration moot. He didn’t have the fuel he needed to cast a more powerful spell, and his opponent was likely to ward off any cheaper projectiles.
Despite his wizard-like stat spread, the borrok was not afraid of getting in melee range—not when protected by a suit of magical armour. He was confident that he would end her so long as one of his deadly touch-based spells was able to find its mark. But a true close-quarters combatant the mage was not.
Even with her legs glued in place, the half-reptilian monster girl was able to outperform him. He couldn’t get close. She bashed his staff away every time he drew near. But she wasn’t able to harm him. None of her attacks could get past his frost armour.
Or so he thought.
The tides turned as soon as the bluescale realised that she could repel him with just one hand on her weapon. She raised the other overhead and pulled one of the blades in his ankles towards her palm. The mercury-coated foreign object rose up through his leg. It tore through his flesh with no mercy and forced his muscle fibres apart, stopping only when it made contact with the ice surrounding him.
She lowered the hand and started pushing as he flinched and screamed in pain. And then raised it again and repeated the process.
Knowing that he couldn’t allow things to continue as they were, the corruptor rapidly retreated. Once he was in his room, he dispelled both his armour and his field so that his mana could regenerate. It was a moment of vulnerability that he mitigated by sealing the door with a wall nearly twelve inches thick. His foe started to smash her way through it, bashing it over and over again with what seemed to be an equitaur’s femur. It couldn’t hold forever. But it was able to buy him enough time to rip the daggers out of his legs, freeze his wounds, and regenerate enough mana for another spell.
The reptilian was met with a massive glacier the moment she broke through his defenses, a thick block of ice that outright destroyed the doorway. Though its force was dampened by the remnants of the mage’s wall, he was sure that it had at least broken her arms and ribs. And that would solve his problem. All he had to do was seal off the room and bide enough time for another spell.
Another incorrect deduction.
There was an error among his axioms, a misconception founded on the assumption that a set of broken bones was enough to put a lid on his attacker’s momentum. But a pulverized ribcage did not a deterred monster girl make.
Recovering almost instantly after she was hit, the blue-scaled maiden leapt through the entrance before he could seal it and kicked him in the jaw. Her legs were the only tools still at her disposal. But that didn’t stop her. She assaulted him with her knees and her feet, a continuous barrage of strikes without a moment’s pause.
Inflicting a single fatal blow was outside the realm of her capabilities. She hadn’t been able to do it with her mace, and her kicks weren’t capable of producing as much force as the club. But what she lacked in power, she made up for with speed. She hit him over and over. His head was constantly on the move and he was never given a chance to reorient or reposition. Gregor thought that he would be able to end it by grabbing her, but his arms were repelled each time he moved them. She would boot him in the shoulder or step on his wrists every time he so much as lifted his hands. Never was he able to get his palms anywhere close to her core.
She didn’t switch up her method of offense until the mage was sufficiently dazed. Once his consciousness started to fade, she kicked him in the back to send him flying against a wall, coated her fangs in quicksilver, and bit down on his neck as she coiled her legs around his torso. It was a pale imitation of what a purebred lamia would have been able to do with its venom glands, but a successful attack nonetheless.
The borrok groaned as his veins were flooded with more and more of the poison. But he didn’t give up. He desperately tried to reach her with his grasp, but his nerves were dulled and his limbs were struggling to respond.
Gregor’s body was half filled with mercury by the time she finally let go. Slowly but surely, his health was ticking down. The heavy metal was spreading to his vital organs, leaving him listless and unresponsive. Even his eyes were failing him. They were drooping. Closing against his will.
Death was coming. Before he could break free of the restraints imposed upon his race. Before he could try to rebel against the librarians that had doomed his people to a cycle of torment.
After being released from her fangs and kicked against another wall, he mustered up the last of his strength and forced his eyes open. Her back was turned on him. She knew what would come with his death, and she was trying to retreat before she was affected.
But that too provided a final chance at reprisal.
His body could hardly move. Nothing seemed to be responding to his commands. But he wasn’t without his bag of tricks.
With the last dredges of his mana, Gregor cast the spell that would be his swan song. A mold of ice appeared at his feet. A final will that anchored his weapon in place. After checking to ensure that it was angled just right, the borrok stopped resisting the reaper’s advance.
He allowed death’s embrace to take him.
And propelled the bladestaff with the explosion that accompanied his end.