There's been a notable increase in spectators between rounds. When I had my first fight there was hardly anyone about to watch the spectacle but now, here in round four? Someone's getting popular! The observation area is packed.. Standing room only. It makes sense in a morbid way. One hundred and twenty eight triads had an entrant in this tournament and now only sixteen were still working. All those idle hands means more stone layered bums in seats I suppose. Not to mention all of the triads who manage the surviving monsters are here to scout. When there's only eight fights, it's not hard to make it to all of them and keep an eye on the opposition.
With this bumper audience I'll need to ensure I put on a show!
No wait Why the hell would I do that? Just focus on not getting dead and surviving long enough to escape! Don't do anything unnecessary, idiot! Trying to snap back into focus I shake off the surprise I felt at the size of the crowd and worry about what's in front of me. The gate hasn't risen to let my opponent in yet, so I still have some time. Best get myself fully prepared. Sink into the meditation skill, get my sub-brains prepping some mana. Our intel spoke to the speed and dexterity of this opponent, so we decided a Gravity mana focused strategy would help even the odds. I've also whipped up a Fire mana construct just in case. The wide range of the flame thrower spell and general explodiness should help catch out my more nimble opponent.
Oh ho! Here we go. I stretch out my six legs as the gate opposite begins to rattle as it rises to reveal the creature behind it. It looks just as weird as I was told. It's tall, probably as tall as Tiny, but thin, like, really thin. It looks like it hasn't eaten anything in its entire life! Emaciated is one thing, but this guy is pushing it to a new level. He kind of looks like a shadow beast was crossed with a sloth. He has gangly arms tipped with long, curved claws that cast a wicked gleam. In fact, I suspect they are actually glowing, though it's hard to tell in this lighting. Could be an elemental mutation, or perhaps a mana infusion that aids cutting power? Could be something new they added to help deal with my carapace. The creature has a narrow face with a particularly non-threatening mole-like pointy face. Something tells me the teeth he's packing in there are the real deal though.
As it strolls into the arena the creature stretches its limbs languorously in a nonchalant display. Considering those limbs are made from shadow flesh those stretches are a little disturbing, the limbs bending too far to be normal, the flesh extending far more than it should.
Alright there, buddy. No need to put yourself on display. Oh look, the Shapers are eating it up. Chumps. So much pointing and muttering going on up there. Get with the program guys, where's the ant love? I can't help but clack my mandibles in irritation. Stupid sloth monster, stealing my limelight. I'll get my revenge by eating him, I suppose that'll have to do. One final check of my skills and constructs. Everything looks good. Time to start weaving and compressing my first spell.
As my sub-brains get busy focusing on casting, I watch the opponent like an ant-hawk. The biggest threat this monster poses is his insane speed and lightning fast attacks. No elemental damage, no magic or super fancy tricks. Granin speculated that the triad who created this beast designed it to make best use out of its rubbery, shadow flesh by creating a beast that could push its body past breaking point, literally shred its own tissues to achieve speed and power that would otherwise be impossible. The unique properties of shadow flesh means that the monster can regrow and replace the damage far more easily than I can heal. Even Crinis utilises similar mutations that allow her to just 'pump' more shadow goop into damaged areas to replace what's been lost.
It makes for an intimidating prospect. I'll need to be careful. Well of course I do, it's a fight to the death.
I know the battle is going to start in a few seconds so I waste no time unleashing my first spell before the Shapers declare the fight has begun. It's a defensive spell which is apparently allowed. Before my opponent can move a muscle my Gravity Domain expands outwards in an ever revolving sphere centred on me. I'm not actually sure if the spell penetrates through the ground I might need to investigate that.
In a loud voice, the Shaper announces the start of the battle and I nearly flinch even sunk into meditation, my mind hyper-alert and focusing on my foe. I'm not sure what I expected to happen. I think deep down I imagined him disappearing like a cartoon character, only to appear behind me looking smug whilst I appear foolish and confused. Not that such a thing would work on me anyway, I can see behind me! MUAHAHAHA.
No, instead the monster continues its casual behaviour and strolls toward me, it's movements languid and relaxed. I don't know if this guy is overconfident or if this is how he always acts. Oh well, no reason not to execute the plan. With my condensed Gravity Domain slowly revolving around me I engage my brains again and draw out more Gravity mana to shape into spells. Thank goodness my Gravity Mana Gland contains so much of the precious juice. Granin and I theorised that it would be a key element in slowing my speedy opponent down. My first attempt is gravity spear, the old favourite.
I settle my feet and try to get low. No point trying to contest this creature in speed, I have no hope of winning such a contest and running around is only going to open up blind spots. Instead, I'll force him to come to me and act like the mountain against his wind.
As the monster draws closer I snap my mandibles open and unleash the spear in a straight line directly into the creature's face. See if you can act smug now! Contrary to my expectations however, the creature casually leans to one side and allows the spear to brush past its lithe frame. Damn thing barely broke stride!
That spell moves pretty damn fast. Not like, a bullet fast, we aren't talking Neo levels of dodge here, but still, fast. It felt like he just swayed out of the way of an arrow I'd fired at his face. Maybe if I aim lower, go for the middle of his body, then he'll have to at least move a little more.
Drawing on the combined power of my two weaker sub-brains I throw together another spear and cast it as fast as I can. By this time the monster is within thirty metres of me, having walked his way straight toward me from the other side of the arena. The moment the spear is unleashed I raise up my profit margin and unleash a barrage of acid.
POW! POW! POW! POW!
The spell streaks forward whilst overhead the acid arcs into the air before spreading and starting to fall. I tried to arrange the four shots in a spread around the monster's current location. Let's see how you dodge now
Almost as if in slow motion, the monster's eyes sharpen and it bends its legs. Then, with a flicker of light, it's gone!
A tremendous impact slams into my side, but I'm ready! My legs absorb the shock and I angle my carapace to allow those long, curved claws to slide off my side with a screech. My mandibles open wide and snap shut in an instant but the creature is already gone. With a kick of his legs he pushes off the ground and almost glides through the air to land more than ten metres away.
So fast! So damn fast! Without my enhanced reflexes and future sense, I'd have had no idea what had even hit me! That's how every fight has gone so far for this monster apparently. One hit kills. Even then, he aimed for my eye, the gap in my defences. I had to perform a tiny dash to bring my head out from under that strike and have it clash on my carapace instead.
Now he's just standing outside the range of my Domain looking at me with his head cocked, as if he's shocked I'm still alive. This monster is irritating in the extreme.