• hcmills

Chapter 144: Your friendly neighbourhood...

The visual feed is cut off as deep blue energy swirls around me. I blink, and suddenly I’m down in the cavern, standing on a small raised platform next to a shallow pool of Hydrum I hadn’t spotted before.

That must have been really short-distance. I barely felt the Cold!

“Kaitlynn, are you okay?” I quickly call out.

<Heads up, it’s coming!> Kaitlynn’s voice warns in my mind.

I turn around and find Spider-Troll bearing down on me, its inhuman legs skittering at inhuman speeds.

I swallow some saliva as I charge both a small and a medium-sized Focus Crystal. “It’s a lot bigger in person...”

I form a swirl of Negative Inertial Energy from the small Focus Crystal attached to the bottom of my wrist, and leap just before the first strike of the whip lands, soaring off into the Aether.

I allow the Inertial field to fizzle out and, mid-Aether, turn the Qi in the medium-sized Focus Crystal tied to my belt into Spatial Energy, forming a thick boundary. A few breaths later, I’m swimming off through the Aether.

Let’s start by buying some time, and figuring out what makes this thing—whoa!

Several thick strands of web pass right by me and attach to the ceiling.

I look down just in time to see Spider-Troll take aim with his butt once more, spinnerets ready to fire.

A swish of my tail changes my momentum enough to dodge the shot, but Spider-Troll quickly adapts.

I twist out of the way of the next volley in the nick of time, only to find more strands where I’m heading. And I have too much momentum to evade them.

At the last moment, I manage to compress my boundary, flattening myself so I can barely pass between two thick strands.

I’m right next to a big, slanted pillar of crystal now, so I allow my tail to disperse for a moment and kick off, heading higher.

Our game of cat and mouse continues.

I kick, twist, hide behind crystals, and generally do whatever I can to throw Spider-troll off as it attempts to predict where I’m going and hit me with its strands.

The distance and my ability to Distort my boundary help make up for my lack of manoeuvrability, and I manage to barely avoid getting hit for several minutes. Only problem is, as our game continues, the cavern slowly starts to fill with webbing...

Seriously, how much web can this thing produce? It could supply a whole sweatshop with silk by itself!

Soon enough, the inevitable happens, and, while dodging another salvo of strings, I find myself flying right into a previously shot web.

I struggle to get free, but in doing so, only get more tangled in the sticky strands.

“Damnit, I didn’t even get a chance to go on the offensive!”

Maybe I was too focused on buying time...

<It’s okay, Emma,> Kaitlynn says. <I’m good to go, so just switch before it reaches you.>

Changes in the tension of the strands and movement from the corner of my eye let me know Spider-Troll has indeed started climbing its web, but I’m not ready to give up yet.

Okay, how do I get out of this? The strands are clearly Heat-resistant, so burning won’t work. Distort Space won’t help either cause these stands are all sticky. What—

Suddenly, pain racks my body as the strands holding me all start to vibrate violently.

<Emma! Switch already!>

Frankly, she’s preaching to the choir. However, at this time the Vibrations running through my body paralyze my muscles.

I can barely breathe, let alone speak.

And thus I can only watch in horror as Spider-Trolls hungry maw approaches from below.

<Emma!> Kaitlynn calls out desperately inside my head.

There’s so much I want to say, but without control of my body, I have no way of communicating back. After all, it’s not like she’s in range for me to hook a Telepathic tether, and I can’t just send my thoughts—

Wait, that’s it!

‘Suri, switch!’ I manage to send over my optic nerve, fighting to concentrate through the pain.

[I thought you’d never ask.]

The last thing I see before I’m whisked away in a whirl of purple is several rows of sharp teeth stretching out around my remaining foot.

A split second later, I’m back in my pod. I can’t help but glance down to make sure what I already know by the lack of pain. I still have at least one foot. It didn’t manage to bite me.

“Oh thank, goodness,” I mutter, closing my eyes for a moment.

Nothing lost but my pride. Well, that and about half my Qi, ’cause I kind of lost my focus on my boundary just now when it decided to shake me like a polaroid picture. Not that I think my boundary would have survived me being portalled anyway. Those portals are made of dense Spatial Energy, and I’d bet my left foot it would rip my boundary to shreds.

<Emma!> Kaitlynn’s voice calls worriedly over the auditory connection. <Are you—whoa!>

“Kaitlynn?” I quickly focus on the screen in front of me. Spider-Troll—who has returned to the ground—is swinging its vibrating whips at Kaitlynn in an alternating pattern. “Don’t worry about me, I’m fine!”

She doesn’t react, just grunts as she dodges another whipcrack.

Thankfully, the webs Spider-Troll used to impede my flight are now getting in its way as it tries to hit her, making it a bit easier for Kaitlynn to avoid its attacks. Had the strands been anything else—like vines or even young trees—the vibrating whips probably would’ve cut right through them, but these webs simply resonate along when hit, seemingly immune to the energy.

Definitely a Yang material. Wait, can stuff even be Yang if it hasn’t either been alive at some point or made of pure energy? Then again, it is an organic product... maybe that counts.

But if the webs are Yang, I might—

My eyes widen as Spider-Troll winds back both of its arms for a double lash, and Kaitlynn does something unexpected.

With a flash of yellow, she dodges forward.

My heart skips a beat as she comes in reach of a pair of arms the size of tree-trunks.

However, she times her move perfectly, and Spider-Troll struggles to react. Its whips are useless at this short range, but just as it drops them, she ducks beneath its massive body.

Spider-Troll quickly lowers itself in an attempt to squash her, but she’s already out between two of its legs on the side.

My mouth falls open as she leaps onto its back and in one smooth motion, jams her spear between the shoulder blades of its Troll-like torso.

Spider-Troll roars in anger, skittering in circles as it tries but fails to reach back, it’s bulging biceps getting in the way as Kaitlynn repeatedly pulls out and stabs the spot it can’t reach.

The tip of her spear doesn’t seem to penetrate too deeply, possibly due to its thick skin or her precarious footing, but she makes up for it by being relentless.

That is until the creature somehow manages to snag one of its whips around her ankle and yanks her off.

My heart leaps into my throat as she’s sent flying. “KAITLYNN! TAG OUT!”

Right before her body completes its arc and slams into solid rock, I’m enveloped by thick Spatial Energy.

I appear back on the small raised platform, and my eyes immediately lock with Spider-Troll’s.

I almost sob with relief at the lack of a corpse next to it.

<Damnit, I almost had it!> Kaitlynn rasps over the connection.

I don’t have time to answer, as Spider-Troll is already advancing with murder in its eight beady eyes.

I quickly whip up another thick bubble of Spatial Energy, using up most of my remaining Qi. However, instead of jumping up, I kick off towards the shallow pool and use my newly formed tail to sweep down towards the Hydrum.

<Emma? What are you doing?>

As I rake over the surface, I quickly dip my spear in the Hydrum. It comes back covered with a thin film of the viscous liquid.

“Just a little idea I had; let’s hope it works!”

I kick my tail against the Hydrum’s surface, pushing off hard.

Spider-Troll shoots a web in front of me, but this time I don’t dodge. Instead, I swing my spear.

The liquid covering it is, by now, bubble-gum pink, and firmly under my control. The web hisses as it comes into contact with the Hydrum filled with Acidic Toxic Energy, and then snaps.

I fly through unsnagged.

Take that, sucker!

Since this opponent was picked—or perhaps even created—specifically for us, there’s no doubt in my mind that it has a way to handle Toxic Energy. But just like I’d hoped, whatever protection it has does not seem to extend to its webs.

Now that I can deal with its webs, I just need a way to damage it!

Kaitlynn did some very nice work on its back. With some luck and effort, the blood loss might just slow it down enough that we’ll be able to deal it a fatal blow.

It’s not much of a plan, but it’s all I’ve got right now.

Spider-Troll fires another volley of webs at me, which I can barely dodge. My manoeuvre sends me heading for another web, which I slice with my spear in the nick of time.

Okay, let me amend that: now that I can deal with its webs, I just need something to distract it while I figure out how to damage it.

Luckily, I have just the thing.

A trio of trigots leaps forth from the shallow pool of Hydrum.

I mean, I had to make their entrance somewhat believable, right?

They scurry toward Spider-Troll and start nipping at its legs.

It glances down... and goes back to launching webs at me.

What the hell? Did it see through them?!

I narrowly slice apart a web fired right at me.

Maybe it just doesn’t see them as a threat. Makes sense, considering the difference in size.

I could conjure something bigger, but that would take a lot of Espir... On the other hand, if it can see through my conjuring, then my Espir might not be worth much.

You know what? Size doesn’t matter. It’s how you use it.

My trigots yelp and scatter when a faithful rendition of Laser-nope fires a violet beam of fake Necrotising Radiation that barely misses Spider-Troll’s head.

This time, I’ve got its attention.

Spider-Troll rounds on my marama with wide eyes and snarls at it.

Perfect. Now I just need to—

My thoughts grind to a halt.

<Son of a bitch,> Kaitlynn swears over the auditory connection, evidently having spotted the same thing I have.

There’s not a scratch on Spider-Troll’s back. This bloody thing can Regenerate.

Author's note:

Thanks for reading! ^^

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