I rushed forward, throwing another swing at Eryn. Now that I knew exactly what to hit, the mana empowering my strikes would do no damage to her, but only to the foreign god that had integrated itself into her being.
However, it knew that would be the case, so it leapt out of the way while parrying my blow. I could feel my arm nearly rip out of its socket from the fierce impact. Eryn had gone easy on me before. Now, there was no quarter given as her body had been taken over.
A burst of flame plowed into me immediately afterward. Struggling to push back against it with my mana barrier, I gripped another knife in my left hand and swung again, canceling the magic spell. I was starting to grasp the sensation of how my newfound power operated. Once the world stopped looking like it broke so easily, something within me changed.
Now, I could sense the mana flow from beyond those surface points, to where its very source lay. Touching Eryn’s core gave me the basic groundwork for understanding the very nature of mana. Having her heal my wound with her magic and canceling out the miasma laced within were just more experiments in dissecting that ability’s extensions.
I saw for myself that I could do much more if I tried. The ‘me’ from the other world dove right in, so I knew I could muster the same courage as well. And if I took the time to piece the parts of myself together, only then could I become the best I was capable of.
Dash and slice. I fought hard to keep up with Eryn’s crisp movements. The glimmer of my blades was repelled by her own. Even swinging with both arms, I couldn’t tear through the guard that she put up. The problem with a magician’s mana barrier was the converted energy, slightly different than what a warrior encased oneself in. Each spell had a slightly different signature, making it impossible for me to cut through both the shield and her in one strike. The same could be said of slicing through the flames around her. I had to hit her directly, when her defenses had been broken.
The barrier covering her left arm shattered, but her hand retreated, replaced with a quick slice by her sword to force me into making distance. Within moments, her protection was restored to full.
With the near-inexhaustible mana supply of the Electi of Mana, Eryn didn’t have to worry about running dry from me constantly shattering her defense. Whittling her down wouldn’t work. I would get tired far quicker instead.
The temperature suddenly dropped in an instant. I felt a pair of arms pull me back before the surroundings abruptly changed. I didn’t need to look to know Katalina’s touch, who had plucked me out of the area with a portal before Cornelius’s wide area Ice spell kicked in. Eryn and the entire area within a 20-meter radius froze over in a sheet of thick ice.
I wasn’t fighting Eryn alone. I had these two with me. Despite Cornelius reviving not long ago, we were surprised that she returned at the same level as she did before death. Perhaps, it was because she already existed in this world, so her body naturally retained these characteristics. It worked out for us as we couldn’t have had a better wielder of magic to fight against Eryn. Not to mention, her Magic stat had been boosted all the way to 999 as well.
“You better hurry! Even with my magic stronger than it ever has, it won’t keep her in place for long! You won’t see me getting any closer since I’m even more of a glass cannon than before!”
In exchange for stronger magic, Cornelius’s total life points dropped significantly. Her constitution was pretty frail to begin with, so it only made sense. However, that didn’t matter if she just froze stuff at a distance, but that required a ton of mana. Fortunately, her giant Ice spell didn’t completely drain her in one shot; she could keep on the pressure due to her good mana control. Still, it looked like she was struggling to keep the God of Life continuously on ice, so maybe not.
Katalina barely gave me time to react before gently pushing me into another portal, her other hand clicking the trigger to her Ice Gun to add supporting fire. I was immediately hit with a falling sensation as I barreled out, a short distance above where Eryn was frozen. With my knives at the ready, I focused on trying to hit an immobilized Eryn as I descended.
But then, the frozen statue started glowing red before erupting. A column of flame shot upward, right at me, forcing me to switch targets on the fly. As my knife cleaved the flames, the heat of it could be felt at the ends of my hairs and stinging my face. Even my outfit’s natural protection wouldn’t save me from a direct hit.
Slicing the column like I was carving down the side of a tree trunk, I saw Eryn trying to break free from the ice, only for several more shots of ice to pepper her legs, keeping her feet chained. At this point, even Katalina was struggling as she fired her magic guns at maximum power, determined to hold the advantage. Her sniping was undaunted by the tense situation at hand. But her stamina had its limit.
By now, Eryn had discarded her sword, left frozen in the ice beside her. With one side coated in a mana barrier, and the other side charging up for continuous Fire magic, I knew that this would be a pain to fight.
I lashed out with my right as I fell nearly on top of Eryn. A sharp noise of shattering littered my hearing, but my eyes had no time to confirm the strike, seeing a flaming fist coming for me. With my left hand, I slashed at it, blowing away the flames. But I needed to dodge the physical hit itself, keeping me from continuing the assault. Before I could counter with my right again, her left fist struck, catching me in the wrist.
Before I could feel the actual pain, a sharp crack echoed by my ear, a consequence from guarding my head hastily with my right arm. A fierce wave of pain shot right to my brain, causing me to bite down hard to remain focused.
I stepped back and tapped my Divine Mana Gate, the rush of mana somewhat dulling the damage. Looking at my now-broken forearm, I gripped it hard while focusing my mana to the area. Slowly, the pain lessened a bit, and I could feel the bone set back in place, held together by mana. It was quite the mental drain, but I needed my arm functional if I wanted a chance at winning.
More Fire magic came at me, which I sliced with my uninjured arm. Charging forward again, I knew that I only needed to get one good hit to stop the God possessing her. Again, I struck both shield and fire, swinging as fast as I could to find some opening.
After a few exchanges, I slipped into an opening in her guard, finally getting comfortable with the speed of her recovery. My foot went up, aiming for her upper torso because her lower half was still encased by ice that continuously melted as quickly as it was added. Even fixed in one place, Eryn’s full power was near unstoppable.
But the extra time it took to lift my leg that high was just enough time for Eryn to cast a different spell.
Feeling a third source of power swelling right before the release, I quickly abandoned the strike by rolling to the ground. Even if I had expected the Wind spell and canceled it out, that kick would have left me open to being countered. I swore to myself that I would practice more if I got past this.
As I tumbled to the ground and continued slicing away at Eryn’s magic, my body went on auto-pilot while I tried to come up with some way to break the deadlock.
Eryn had significant battle experience to begin with, and that was even without the memories of her other self, containing more than a hundred years. Together, they would have seen just about any fighting style, known nearly every trick. Getting through her defenses through the element of surprise was just about impossible.
That is… if it were someone of this world.
A thought flashed into my mind. It was utterly silly for anyone to even attempt such a maneuver, but with my Critical abilities, it was possible. The very idea of it was so odd that Eryn would never even consider it.
Like Lamps’ power suit being defeated by taffy. There were times where the most pointless of knowledge can become someone else’s Achilles. With that in mind, I took a deep breath and sliced through the spell before me, making another break straight for Eryn.
I had to bank on this. I could see Cornelius straining to keep the wide area Ice spell maintained and Katalina struggling to hold her guns straight. The two of them wouldn’t last much longer.
I rushed in with a diagonal downward strike with my right, watching as Eryn batted my knife to the side as her barrier shattered from the critical hit to it. Such a direct block made my arm creak in resistance. I couldn’t muster enough strength to push back, so I let my arm give way to her swing.
At the same time, my right leg shot forward, a spin kick aimed at her open side. Expecting it, Eryn let out a gust of Wind magic. This time, I followed through and smashed the razor wind. With our mana signatures canceling out, my foot smacked into her side and hardly did anything due to my negligible attack power. Even though I touched her, a strike devoid of mana couldn’t activate a critical, so she simply slapped it out of the way. My body started whirling past her, having been painfully knocked off balance.
I could just make out a snide grin on her face before my body forcefully spun with the received momentum; I followed with a back slice with my left hand next, completely turned around. This time, flames met with the white glow of my strike, once again canceling any chance of a critical. Her right hand caught me in the wrist, and with a death grip, the bones there twisted with a sick snap.
Eryn saw past the attack, scoffing at my flagrant flailing attempts to sneak a fast one on her. Even if I tried to integrate kicks into my combo, they would be amateurish at best. She knew too much about my way of fighting, and how I went for speed over power to get a touch in. I was a creature of habit, and my straightforward approach rarely created surprises once my abilities were known.
But that was exactly why she didn’t see it coming. Another glint of a knife glowed right before her, shining with the same power as my other strikes. Her eyes darted around in confusion as she had already taken out my arms and legs; she had made sure of that. But then, she saw that the white glint didn’t come from just a knife, but my eyes as well. The glow from it hid a face struggling to make one final attack – the knife held between my teeth.
I had summoned it from my Item Box, letting the portal for it hover behind me until I spun around to draw the knife out with my mouth. In the instant after I did that back slice, I started charging the next – a stumble forward that was less of a real attack than a haphazard collision of a guy’s face into a girl’s body, a trope that I could bank on when all other luck failed.
Certainly, it was not a graceful way to end it, but the surprise on Eryn’s face confirmed that it would succeed. The blade in my mouth went for her stomach as I fell right into her. And with a flick of the neck, the slice was registered before I crumpled to the ground.
I heard Eryn scream as the touch of Critical collided with the existence of the God inside of her, a direct hit to the mana signature. Her body slumped over as it slowly lost control over her. Moments later, Eryn’s eyes popped open again, but this time, with a softer expression. I spit out the knife, which made a clang upon the icy ground.
“What the hell was that?” she weakly said, with a look of confusion.
“Do you mean what that God did, or what I did?” I looked up at her from the ground, nursing the injuries I received. Though painful, they would be okay for the time being, at least until I could snag a recovery potion from my Item Box.
Eryn rolled her eyes at me, implying that I knew exactly what she meant.
“Okay, okay, the mouth weapon thing was pretty dumb. But if it worked for anime sea pirates, it was worth a shot. Accomplished the goal, didn’t it? …Or well, enough for me to finish things.”
I slowly pulled myself up. The task wasn’t done just yet. The strike had only been enough to seize control back from the god. I held my chef knife in front of me, bracing it with both hands; they were too shaky from injuries to hold the knife alone.
I focused on Eryn’s core and used ‘Status Check’, bringing up a health bar for the God of Life inside of her. The number of digits for its HP made my eyes widen. Not only that, but my attack had only shaved off a small fraction of it. I could understand why it would never die. It had simply too much life to live.
I slashed downward, sending a wave of mana passing straight through Eryn. Though her body only shivered slightly from it, a pulse of miasma shot out from the hit, as if trying to resist the attack. Another slice was shaved from the health bar.
“Say Claude…,” Eryn began to say.
“This is the only way,” I interrupted. “I don’t care if I slay a god. If it will bring you back, I’ll deal with the consequences.”
It looked like she had more to say, but she just closed her eyes and nodded. She let me continue slashing, shaving away at the very existence that had changed her life so much. And who defined what we were now in this world. Her body trembled like the cold gave her shivers each time.
No more regrets. We would live on how we were, regardless of how we came to this point.
After a dozen more slashes, the health bar finally drained to nothing, and slowly, the status window of the unknown God of Life crumbled out of existence. And along with it, the incredible source of mana that she had obtained from Lamps Magellan disappeared with it.
She was back to herself, though her demonic outward appearance didn’t change. Her skin was still deathly pale, and her ears were slightly pointed. And also…
“Those memories… they are still there…,” Eryn commented with a hint of melancholy. She was referring to the life of her other self.
“It’s okay, Eryn. Nothing more than a dream. A very long nightmare that you have awakened from. It’s good to have you back. I missed you.”
I took her in my arms, an existence so strong and fragile at the same time. Just like I was.