Chapter 122: Fatality
I got rather excited from all the excellent feedback on the last chapter, so I decided to rewrite the ending! If you read that chapter before this one was published, I would recommend checking it out before you continue ;)
To find the start of the rewritten part, press ctrl+f and search for the phrase: I hear a wail
My knees buckle as I cry out in pain. However, before I can fall down, Bruce uses his good leg to kick me off his blade, sending me sprawling onto my back.
The smell of burnt skin invades my nose and mouth and I vaguely hear my name being called out as the world spins from the pain and the immense Heat spreading through my body.
Bruce—still seated—tosses my spear aside, and holds his glowing dagger against the wound in his thigh, which sizzles as he cauterizes his own wound.
My mind finally catches up.
Crap crap crap! What the hell was that Skill?!
At least the beach seems to have returned to its previous, flat state.
I glance at my Status Bar.
Okay, calm down, Emma. You’re hurt, but you’re not dead yet!
In fact, the wound nor the Heat are enough to kill me. The real danger behind the Heat spreading through my body are the stat-eroding effects I can’t track through the Status Bar.
‘Suri, tell me how much Heat I’ve taken on and what it’s doing to my body!’
[You are currently 35.8 Onkh over your Tolerance Limit for Heat, which eats away 7 Onkh of Lavi per minute, and reduces your base Strength from 16 to 5, and Toughness from 15 to 10.]
Even though it weakens me further, I undo Boost Physical’s second mode to conserve Lavi and activate Regenerate instead.
Bruce gets to his feet.
“You... how?” I croak as, partly to stall and partly because I’m flabbergasted. It’s not hard to make it sound like I’m worse off than I actually am; speaking hurts when there’s a gaping hole beneath your diaphragm.
He laughs. “I had a feeling we’d have another encounter some day. So when a Power-Up fell into my hands that was capable of neutralizing Toxic Energy, well...”
Unbelievable. That lucky son of a bitch has the Toxic equivalent of Jacob’s Anti-Electric Power-Up!
I glance down at my wound. Since Bruce was nice enough to cauterize it for me, there’s no blood blocking my vision, and I can see something happening in there.
I clutch my hand over it to block Bruce’s view and groan in pain. Again, it’s not hard to make it sound convincing; that really hurt. I won’t be launching a countermove until that sucker has closed up.
Of course, if it’s up to Bruce, I won’t be launching any countermoves.
He picks up his sword and comes towards me, grim determination on his face.
He doesn’t seem inclined to give me a lot of time to recover. However, I’ve been planning strategies for this fight for a long time.
It’s not a coincidence that this is the first day in a long time that Suri’s allowed me to maintain a full tank of Espir.
I stick the hand that isn’t covering my wound behind my back, and conjure the most life-like Major Radiation Crystal I can Imagine.
I pull it forth and lift it up in front of me, holding it between us like a shield. “Stay back!” I say, affecting a tone of desperation. “Stay back or I’ll pump this sucker full of Toxic Energy!”
He freezes in place. His brows furrow. “And that’s supposed to be scary?”
“Yin-Yang opposite energies don’t mix,” I say through gritted teeth. “So unless you want to experience this Realm’s equivalent of a dirty bomb, I suggest you step back!”
He remains where he’s standing. “You’re... threatening to blow the both of us up?”
“I don’t want to have to use this, but I will!”
He blinks, and his eye turns aside, as if he’s listening to something. Then his face relaxes. “A little birdie tells me you’re full of shit.”
What? Did his guide just tip him off that it’s a bluff? That’s cheating, damnit!
“Stay back, I’m warning you!” I try.
He steps forward.
Well, that could have lasted a bit longer.
I can feel my Lavi hard at work, knitting my flesh together as Heat radiates off my skin. I can’t be sure if the Skill will heal my insides entirely right, but thankfully, the stab wound wasn’t too deep. Still, I’m not exactly ready to fight yet.
“All right, suit yourself,” I say. Bruce can’t help but flinch back when I toss it at him and quickly turn away.
The crystal explodes in his face with a flash like lightning and a sound like thunder.
No point wasting Espir on making a useless prop, right?
Bruce stumbles back, shielding his eyes and brandishing his blade menacingly in front of him.
I don’t wait for him to recover, pulling hard on my reserves of Espir for my next conjuring trick.
A mass of tentacles bursts out of the sand, forming a circle around me. For maximum credibility I accompany the visual with an ominous groaning sound and the smell of rotten fish.
A wave of fatigue rushes over me from conjuring something so big, but I needed to make an impression.
Judging from the shocked gasps of our spectators, I’ve succeeded.
Obviously, my wall of tentacles can’t physically stop Bruce, like the Imaginary flashbang won’t have actually hurt his eyes or ears. However, it’ll cut of his line of sight and hopefully make him wary of approaching, for a bit. Until his guide convinces him its fake, at least.
I remove my hand from my stomach and check the damage. Charred muck is slowly spilling out of the wound, pushed out by the new flesh growing beneath.
I frown. Regenerate is taking longer to heal me than it ought to. Even if the burnt nature of the wound makes it harder—
It’s the Heat! It’s eating away my Lavi and slowing down the process.
A sword rakes through my impromptu shelter. I let most of the tentacles just fold along it, but allow some of them to be ‘cut’ and fall to the ground with a squelch, then make the intact ones wave angrily in response.
I grab the skin hanging from my belt, and dump the contents over my wound to clear some of the muck and Heat. Unlike water, Hydrum is an excellent conductor of Heat, so I immediately feel some of my Strength return.
Any second now he’ll be stepping through. I quickly cover my closing wound with a hand again and mentally prepare myself to—
Suddenly, an oppressive force pushes down on me, pressing me into the sand all over. What the hell?
Moments later, Bruce steps through my slimy wall, sword held carefully in front of him. The tentacles part easily, brushing around him, leaving trails of clear slime and reforming behind him.
I will the tentacles to begin disintegrating from the top down in an impressive lightshow. It takes most of my remaining Espir to add that effect, but it serves its purpose, as Bruce stops in his tracks for a moment at the unexpected sight, which gives me a precious few seconds to figure out what’s going on.
My limbs feel so heavy, and I’m actually sinking deeper into the sand as well. Is it that Skill again? What could possibly—oh, shit.
“This... what did you do?” I pretend to struggle to bring out, before coughing up some fake, conjured blood.
Bruce eyes me like one would a poisonous snake. “I’d like to ask you the same thing. I have no idea how you’re pulling off these... illusions. I’m guessing it’s some kind of Toxic Energy related Skill I don’t know about.”
Sounds like his guide at least didn’t tell him everything.
I don’t answer, focusing instead on the warm, pulsing white glow coming off his Focus Crystal.
White energy, but it doesn’t look or feel like Purifying Radiation, it’s warmer, fuller somehow. Yup, that’s the exact opposite of my inky-black, empty-feeling Spatial Energy.
The sand that’s slowly trickling towards me from all sides confirms it: Bruce actually knows Gravity Manipulation.
That talented bastard!
The effect seems to be centred slightly below me, and judging by the circular shape that’s slowly appearing in the sand as it moves towards me, its range is limited to about 5 feet from the centre. Bruce stops right outside the circle, which suggests that he can’t yet exclude himself from the effect.
I don’t have enough Strength back yet to pull off a quick counter under these circumstances, not even with Boost Physical...
“Guess I’d better finish this, before you pull another trick out of your ass,” Bruce mutters when I don’t respond.
He flips his sword so the blade points down. For a moment I’m confused about what he’s planning, but then it clicks.
He’s afraid to get close, so he’s going to toss it and let the gravity field do its job!
The moment he swings his arm up, I begin my desperate counterplan
I have no guarantees it’ll work, but Spatial Energy seems like my only bet to counter Gravity, so I quickly convert my Qi and attempt to form a boundary around me, even as his sword starts its arc into the Aether.
It takes significantly more Spatial Energy than it normally would, and I can feel the boundary creak and shift under the pressure of the field of Gravity, but the moment it snaps into place, I feel light again.
Lacking time to set up a Lavi cross-flow, I instead activate the first mode of Boost Physical with a simple yank and roll aside. Bruce’s sword accelerates a crazy amount as soon as it enters the gravity field, and sinks deep into the sand I just occupied.
Bruce curses as I leap to my feet.
I charge him, ignoring the pain in my gut, and he points his still-glowing dagger at me, but I’m done holding back.
I shrink my boundary, keeping things simple by just using one dimension and turning into Dwarf Emma. His beam of Astreum passes right over my head.
His eyes widen, but before he has the chance to react, I allow the boundary to relax and expand again.
Since my Strength still isn’t what it used to be, I resist the urge to dramatically try to land an uppercut. Instead, I turn my shoulder towards his overextended torso, and tense my core and leg muscles as I grow back to my regular size.
It hurts a lot when my shoulder slams heavily into his midriff, but my muscles hold up under the strain and I manage to send him flying back and up several feet into the Aether.
I’m not about to let this opportunity go to waste. When he’s just about to land, I unleash a massive, maximally charged spiral of Positive Inertial Energy.
The Positive Inertial Energy makes it nigh-impossible for his fall to be broken, which means he crashes down hard, forming a Bruce-shaped crater in the sand beneath him.
The Aether leaves his lungs in a huff, and he’s clearly stunned from the impact.
He may have even cracked a few ribs just now. Still, I’m not giving him another chance to recover.
I limp over and grab my spear, clutching the still-healing wound in my stomach as I bend down. I may have torn it open a little just now, but I’m beyond caring.
I stalk over and stab straight for this heart. I see his Focus Crystal light up again, but he’s too late.
Right before he attempts to halt my spear with Decrease Momentum, I create another outward spiral of Positive Inertial Energy, which ensures that nothing short of a speeding car or a comet strike is going to stop my spear.
Yellow light from his Focus Crystal envelops my spear, and while it slows my spear noticeably, it’s not enough to stop it entirely. Moreover, under the effects of my Positive Inertial Energy, Bruce can hardly move, forcing him to watch in horror as my spear nears his chest.
He lets out a strained huff—almost a sigh—when my blade finally sinks through his armour and deep into his chest like it were made of tofu.
I release the Skill, twist my spear, and unleash a final wave of Toxic Energy before I pull out.
Then I snatch away his Focus Crystal, for good measure.
Samuel let’s out an anguished cry from the side somewhere. From the corner of my eye I see him running over, Dave close behind.
I’m not exactly afraid of Samuel, even with that fancy crystal spear he has, but I still manoeuvre myself so that I can watch him and Bruce simultaneously, just in case.
But Samuel doesn’t try anything. He just drops down to his knees next to Bruce, shaking all over with sobs. Dave slows to a halt a few steps behind, keeping an arrow nocked just in case.
I’d much rather Samuel had kept his distance, but, well, this fight is over. Only high-level Regenerate could possibly save Bruce from that wound, and I refuse to believe he has such a level of Skill.
I keep an eye on the gaping wound in Bruce’s chest just in case.
Even bleeding from the heart, Bruce’s Lavi doesn’t deplete instantaneously, and he looks surprisingly lucid as Samuel hovers over him in tears.
Lucid and furious.
I unconsciously tighten my grasp on my spear.
Samuel grasps Bruce’s remaining hand, with trembling fingers. I can’t quite make out what he’s blubbering, but then again, I’m not really focused on him.
I’m keeping my eyes on Bruce, ready to fend off any attempt at a last attack.
But his attention seems to be on Samuel. There’s an odd look in his eye, conflicted and kind of... dare I say tender?
Wait... Oh my god, that would explain so much! No wonder Samuel—
All of sudden, Bruce’s face goes blank. He turns his gaze to me, and a cruel look appears in his eye.
The next thing I know, the tip of Bruce’s dagger pokes out of Samuel’s back.
Thanks for reading! ^^
My apologies for ending on another cliff, but these things happen ;)
Be sure to hit that big green button on the way out, and see you next week! ^^