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Reed opened his eyes to the red-orange light falling upon the research tables beneath him. He had been absorbed in training for an unclear length of time. It had been long though. Very long. He looked down at his hands as razor-sharp points of bone extended out of his fingertips, lingering at a length of around an inch before inexplicably snapping off. The holes in his skin where the bone had protruded closed in the blink of an eye. Standing up, Reed walked to the edge of the platform he had grown to recognize as his new home and jumped off.

The platform had to have been at least thirty feet in the air. But with a loud thud of impacting stone, Reed landed on his feet, unhurt. He walked past the headless corpse on the ground and out of the building, finding a familiar set of stairs upon which he sat down. It didn’t take very long for the creature to show up this time around, just a few minutes. As the creature charged, Reed stood up, leaving a longsword laying against the stairs and not deigning to draw the short sword around his waist. The two met in the middle of the street, the arm amalgamation piercing straight towards Reed as per the usual. He jumped to the side of it with superhuman speed, but there was no follow-up sword swing or experimentation with his new power to generate weapons of his own. Reed just stood there, body tense and at the ready for whatever came next.

The appendage whipped sideways towards him, to which he held his arms up to receive the strike. It connected with his two forearms and immediately shattered them, sending Reed stumbling backward. The bones in his arms quickly began to knit themselves back together, but before they could reach a usable state the creature was already upon him. It lunged for him and Reed was forced to jump backward. His back smashed into a wall, and in that second of entrapment, the arm amalgamation smashed through his chest. Following that he was ripped to pieces so quickly that even his miraculous regeneration couldn’t keep up.

He woke up with a start and immediately checked the time. Not a minute had passed since he had forced himself into unconsciousness previously. Reed let loose a sigh as his head fell back onto the pillows. He took control of his magic, halting the blood and oxygen flow to his brain for the few moments it took to knock himself out and return to the city of stone.

~~~~~

Reed crept behind the chair of the inert denizen within the research building. With a willful kick, the chair fell to the floor, along with the body residing in it. The gray-skinned denizen scrambled to its feet with all the mannerisms of a rabid animal, before hurtling itself at Reed with a flying leap.

Despite all of the progress he had made in strengthening himself, Reed’s reaction time had not changed a bit from before gaining his abilities. And it was for that reason that he was unable to move out of the way in time. The denizen’s grotesquely long and abnormally sharp fingernail dug into Reed’s chest and abdomen as he was tackled to the ground. The fragments of bone extending from Reed’s fingertips likewise pierced into the creature’s torso, which he used as a purchase to throw the thing off of himself. The denizen was flung away, but the nails embedded within him drew jagged lines across his flesh during the process.

The creature landed atop a nearby table and tumbled off the side, giving Reed a moment to get to his feet while the tears covering him rapidly stitched back together. He sprinted and lunged over the table, engaging with the denizen who had already recovered to fighting shape as well. The two entered into a savage struggle, exchanging swipes, stabs, and blows with frequent tumbling scuffles on the ground. Reed did his best to dodge the thing’s blows and fight skillfully with purpose, but he had tremendously little success. No amount of practicing magic would provide him with the experience necessary for a fight.

As the clash continued, both parties racked up wound after wound. Reed’s magic worked to rapidly heal them, but it was too much to keep up with and the denizen’s monstrous regeneration completely outpaced his own. He began to slow down, more injuries accumulating every second. One of the denizen’s claws caught him right in the neck, and the next thing he knew the majority of his throat was torn open. From there the creature made short work of him.

~~~~~

Reed leaned back just enough for the claw swipe aimed at his head to miss. His own bone talons slammed into the denizen's abdomen and tore sideways, leaving four deep gashes that churned with flesh and blood as they rapidly closed shut.

The gray-skinned creature lunged for his legs, which he attempted to dodge with a quick backstep. Its claws caught one of Reed’s legs, causing him to trip and fall on his way backward. He immediately rolled to the side upon making contact with the ground as the denizen pounced on his previous position. Both sides returned to their feet, the scratches on Reed’s leg healing just as fast as those carried by the creature.

He had lost count of how many times he’d fought the regenerating creature like this. At first, the battles had been somewhat quick, the denizen’s stronger regeneration had led to him losing bout after bout. But, the intensity of battle developed his magical prowess far faster than sitting in peaceful concentration. He’d managed to match the creature’s healing capabilities, and his physical capabilities had become even greater. Now he was on a winning streak.

The bone fragments extending from Reed’s right hand suddenly detached from his fingertips and clattered to the floor. A large gash began to open within the palm of his hand as a pointed tip of bone emerged. It gradually grew in length while widening into the form of a double-edged blade, bearing a great resemblance to the short sword he typically carried around his waist.

The rabid denizen bolted towards him while this was occurring, but rather than engage it in this instance, Reed made use of his superior physicality to maintain a distance from the creature. Within just a few seconds of relentless cat and mouse, the extension of bone had reached a length of three feet. With a quick change in direction and a low sweep of the blade, he severed one of the denizen’s legs, causing it to crash into a stone table. It scrambled on the floor, trying in vain to get back to its feet. The flesh at the bottom of its leg wriggled and warped as the limb grew anew, however, it got no such chance as Reed decapitated the downed creature.

The blade attached to his hand snapped off and the gash that was left by it quickly squirmed shut. Reed grabbed the sheath before leaving the building and made his way to the courtyard of weaponry. Grabbing a blade of each size, he slid the shortsword into its sheath while continuing to keep ahold of the longsword. His time spent “sparring” with the denizen in the research building hadn’t involved either type of sword, but he hoped that some of the experience he’d gained would transfer.

Reed grabbed a decently large stone from the wall nearest him and hurled it at the slumbering flesh giant. The impact was enough to elicit a roar from the monstrosity, and as the thing rose to its feet Reed was already running to meet it. He sprinted with the tip of the longsword pointed at the giant while it lumbered forward, content to let Reed come to it.

The giant swiped its hand towards him as the two came within distance of one another. Reed’s considerable momentum came to an abrupt stop, causing the giant’s hand to graze past his front. With a lunge forward and a ferocious swing, the longsword hacked deeply into the monstrosity’s ankle. The giant remained standing, however, and a massive fist hurtled into Reed, sending him flying.

He was quick to get back on his feet, the plethora of broken bones within him fast mending, as the flesh giant limped towards him. His body regained its top shape in the seconds it took for the giant to arrive, and looking to take out its other leg he attempted another feint. His sword wound up for another swing, appearing to target the wounded left leg, but at the last moment dove to the side with all his strength. He came up in a roll, his sword swinging towards the other ankle when a hand grabbed ahold of him and lifted Reed into the air.

He felt another hand grab his lower half and felt an indescribable amount of pain in his midsection for several seconds. Then he felt his body ripped in two.

“Holy shit!” Reed shot up in bed.

That had been his worst death in a while. He had maintained consciousness after being torn in two for a terrifying stretch of time. It took several minutes for him to calm down and glance at the clock. It was four in the morning. He had died so many times over the night that in the seconds it took between each iteration eight hours had gone by.

Reed got out of bed and went to the bathroom to take a long, hot shower. After which he went to the living room and opened his laptop to browse for used cars that were for sale near him. It was finally Friday, and he needed to pay his brother a visit.

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