• hcmills

Chapter 171: Revenge is a dish...

I pull the straps of my cuirass extra tight, confirm the presence of all three weapons on my back one last time, and step into the pod in my room.


It’s go time.


The Final Hub appears in flash, and I fly to the conical stands to check out the four screens replaying yesterday’s fights.


Seems like Avalan was up against the portly man with the furry tail who took out the Fourth Crystal.


The guy put up a good fight, but wisely decided to forfeit after getting sucked in by Avalan’s gravity and nearly ending up beheaded by his crystal sword.


One screen over, I can see Miss Nakamura wrestling against the dude who tried to choke out Calyx.


Apparently, he thought the two extra arms would be enough to help him triumph over Miss Nakamura in a grapple.


He was mistaken.


It’s quite satisfying to watch him tap out when her vice-like thighs threaten to snap his neck like a twig.


I don’t rewatch the other two matches. I’m quite familiar already.


Instead, I close my eyes and begin to Meditate.



[Emma, it’s time,] Suri notifies me, some time later.


I open my eyes. My nervous jitters are gone, leaving me feeling calm and ready.


And there’s no reason not to be. There’s no doubt in my mind who my next opponent will be and I’m more than ready to kick their ass.


It’s been a long time coming.


I get up and kick off from the stands, starting to form my armour even as I swim.


There’s no point in hiding it now, after all.


Although I did make some improvements yesterday, inspired by the techniques of the Eighth Crystal. My Boreum armour is now a lovely shade of purple, as it’s fully Infused with Toxic Energy.


It won’t make much difference in terms of the Boreum’s Toughness, but it should help improve my control and further interfere with foreign energies trying to get through.


The fact that it looks sick as hell is just a bonus. Finally, I’m a real Toxic Dragon.


I spot the others making their way over as well.


Avalan grins at me, before disappearing through his portal first.


I catch Miss Nakamura’s eye. On a whim, I toss out a tether, which—despite the significant distance—reaches its target.


<Squeeze the little shit till he pops,> I send.


She startles, then smiles, and gives a slight bow.


I return the gesture.


Finally, I turn to Dominique. She watches me appraisingly, taking in my new and improved purple scalemail armour.


I draw my similarly tinted crystal spear, and stare her down right up until I enter a portal ring.



I appear a few feet above a surface of brightly glowing Boreum.


The Cold hits me like a freight train, which is not something I’m used to anymore.


At first I think I’m just dealing with a large glacier—if an insanely cold one—but then I notice that there’s no gravity whatsoever. And that there’s very little Lavi in the Aether here. And that there’s a thin layer of Boreum starting to form on any exposed section of my armour and weapons.


I quickly kick my tail and move up, shattering the thin Boreum in places where it tried to connect across my armour’s flexible joints.


The increasingly wide surface I can see as I fly up tens of feet does little to stem the dread building up in my stomach.


“Suri, is this... Big Bortha?”


[It would appear so,] Suri chimes tersely.


I gape at the star for a long moment, taking in the huge craters and cracks marring her surface. “Doesn’t that seem like a bit much?!”


[Yes. Yes, it does.]


My mind races as I consider the implications for the coming battle. “Lavi Flows Window, please.”

Oof, only 10% of the usual atmospheric Lavi... Well, I’ll be fine, thanks to Lavi Font, but I’ll have to dip into my own Lavi Pool if I want to use Boost Physical or any decent Breath Control techniques. This arena feels very disadvantageous to me and kind of perfect for—


A portal opens up some sixty feet away, and Dominique pops out, appearing cool and collected.


her. Of course.


Well, not like there was ever a doubt in my mind about who I’d be facing. The Peilor sure love their revenge fights.


Unfortunately for them, I’m not about to deliberately try and kill Dominique just for defeating Kaitlynn. That doesn’t mean I’m not about to open a can of whoop-ass.


At least she’s not Cold subtype, that would truly be unfair.


Dominique gapes at her surroundings for a moment, then spots me, and quickly sobers up.


Like myself, she’s already encased herself in Boreum, though in her case, it’s shaped like a legless bird with a huge wingspan.


Squaring my shoulders, I dismiss the window with a minute nod.


Dominique turns to face me, drawing herself up. “So, we’re finally here. I’m glad you didn’t disappoint me by losing to someone else.”


“I can’t say I fully share that sentiment,” I drawl. “Though I suppose Kaitlynn’s absence from the tournament has at least refuelled my determination.”


Dominique smiles. “Good. Then let’s determine once and for all who the true Crystal is in our batch—for we both know that it isn’t your girl, impressive though she may be.”


“I knew you were still hung up over that title,” I reply with a smirk.


Irritation flashes over her face, but I don’t wait for a rebuttal. It’s Cold here, and I’m out of patience. Spatial Energy pours out of my Focus Crystal. A field of Negative Inertial Energy envelops me, and a kick of my tail sends me on a path towards her.


Dominique flaps her wings in response, sending herself flying toward me.


We each pick up speed as we approach. From closer up, the detail on her wings begins to stand out. They look not unlike bird’s wings, if you’d replace the feathers with swords made of ice.


I really don’t like this arena. The lack of gravity and vertical surfaces will severely hinder my ability to de- and accelerate.


So, when my speed reaches breakneck levels and Dominique’s eye lights up blue, I make a split-second decision.


The thick Spatial boundary around me, which I normally keep so close to my skin, expands forward rapidly. However, it doesn’t do so in the way that would drag space out with it and expand a small gap or something. Instead, I just have it take up a far larger area, expanding it right up until it brushes against Dominique’s own boundary and gets pushed back.


Unfortunately, her own boundary is still a few feet out from her protective casing. Otherwise, this fight might’ve been over very quickly.


Dominique’s now brightly glowing eye widens a fraction. Then it spits out a beam of bright blue that splits the empty space between us and strikes the front of my armour like a hammer of Cold.


I Warp.


Dominique’s head snaps to the side, a look of shock on her face as I suddenly appear a little to her right, mere feet in front of her.


The Skill—at least at first level—is not a true teleport. It’s more like shrinking the space between two positions into a short tunnel, then slipping through it. Inside the tunnel, it doesn’t feel like I accelerate at all.


I swing out my spear the second I exit the tunnel, flipping my Inertial Energy to Positive as forward momentum carries me past her.


My blade smashes though the thick layer of Boreum encasing her, but my timing was off by a fraction, and the swing is too shallow. My blade doesn’t quite reach her.


Damn!


A spray of shattered Boreum accompanies me as I shoot past, heading for Big Bortha’s surface under an angle.


Warp is a great Skill, but it doesn’t help me change directions. It also takes a moment to set up.


Since I just leapt forward inside the large Spatial Boundary I formed, I’m now at its front-most edge. I quickly retract it towards me, then expand it forward once more.


Dominique’s eye-laser strikes my armour between the shoulder blades. Solid Boreum grows between the scales like a cancer, obstructing my movement.


I Warp, forward and to the right, out of the eye-laser’s path, to a spot mere feet above Big Bortha’s surface.


Negative Inertial Energy takes the sting out of my landing, and I immediately kick back off, heading straight for Dominique.


Her eye-laser swivels back to me.


I breathe out. A flash of Cold solidifies the simple shield in front of me, and I grab onto it with my free hand.


Boreum builds up where the eye-laser hits it, but since it weighs next to nothing, that’s not much of an issue.


Either way, I’m not as helpless in the face of Boreum as I used to be. My own Cold is already invading the extra Boreum on my back that’s hindering the flexibility of my armour. I can feel Dominique’s Cold try and maintain control of the Boreum, but her influence is lacking at this distance, and I’m already forcing it to crumble at the edges.


I cannot, however, get rid of the Cold in my body, which I can tell has already gone over my Tolerance Limit, and is causing my teeth to chatter involuntarily. My Lavi is dropping... I can’t take too long to finish this!


That I’ve already crossed my Tolerance Limit is in part due to the portion of Dominique’s eye-laser that manages to penetrate my impromptu shield. Still, Dominique isn’t of the Cold-subtype either, so the Cold must be getting to her too. And there’s no way firing that laser doesn’t cool her down as well.


As if on cue, Dominique’s eye-laser peters out. A bolt of Electric Energy strikes in its place, curving around my shield.


It’s powerful, but not powerful enough.


I dump my shield, raise my spear in front of me with shaking fingers, and Warp.


There’s no convenient surface to kick off from behind Dominique if I fly past her again, so this time, I come out right in front of her. A dual Inertial Energy field turns my body into a feather, my spear into a battering ram.


It smashes into the Boreum encasing her. She does something, twists and shrinks, I can’t quite tell, but my spear sinks into her shoulder instead of her chest.


I immediately pump in a flood of Dreamcloud Energy, but Electric Energy comes pouring in from the other side, and this time, it’s too much, too direct.


My body locks up. Dominique’s wings smash down, blades of Boreum coming in from all sides.


I blindly Warp ten feet back.


Blood stains the tip of my spear. Good.


Dominique’s face is a stoic mask. Even with her teeth chattering just as hard as mine, she’s not showing any pain. The hole in her Boreum encasing is already closing, Big Bortha’s cooling rays helping her restore the damage I did.


Not the damage to her body, though, nor can it remove the first dose of Dreamcloud I subjected her to.


A wordless battle cry wells up from inside me. I let it out, and Warp back.


I launch a flurry of blows at Dominique, trying to hit the still-closing gap in her armour. It’s easier said than done without footing. If it weren’t for my breath construct helping to stabilise me in the Aether, I’d be helplessly spinning in circles already.


Dominique fends off a few of my strikes with her spear, has her Boreum tank some, then tries to squash me between her wings again.


I Warp up, and her wings crash together beneath me. My spear barrels down towards her head.


A pink spiral envelops Dominique.


She learned Decrease Inertia!


I fume as she uses the force of my blow to accelerate down towards Big Bortha, then turns around and starts flapping her wings, gaining speed.


Looks like she’d rather fight me at range. Well, tough luck.


With my next exhale, I send out even more of my own Lavi and Toxic Energy. I’m down a third of my Lavi Pool, and dropping steadily, but I care little.


She’s not getting away.


My tail grows longer, and I add a pair of draconic wings. The Toxic Energy in my breath makes the whole thing glow purple to match my armour.


I flap my wings, and gain speed faster than her.


Dominique glances over her shoulder, then steers down towards a crack in Big Bortha’s surface.


She almost makes it there, before I Warp.


My spear is poised to crash through her Boreum shell into her back, but something snags it.


Barely visible tendrils of Boreum fill up the space behind Dominique, and as I pop up between them, pushing them aside, a flash of Cold causes them to instantly solidify.


Dominique turns around, and grins victoriously.



Author's note:

Thanks for reading! ^^

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