C49: The Sand King (4)

With an extended field, the Sand King dispersed the clouds by force and thundered a screech. Daiden and Slide walked towards the centre, in unison at first, and then apart in opposite directions. They steadied their weapons and sprinted into attack. Daiden observed a significant difference in speed, with his ally connecting several thrusts in quick succession. He reeled from his impulse and studied Slide instead, his patterns and tendencies during battle especially.

Daiden broadened his field of view with occasional assists, allowing Slide to take charge with the combat. He studied the team around him as well, from Skunk’s linkages to extend and improve on armaments, to Carla’s ability as a Lightning Elementalist, and Lina’s proficiency as a Combat Healer. As Carla rested, Lina and Skunk played an active role in supporting the primary combatants. Daiden felt a sense of balance from the assessment. With a nod, he held his breath and hollowed to the core in his body.

In bursts, Daiden visited and embraced the jade to overcome his usual white aeter form. He altered his breaths and borrowed from Takshaka, veiling in a jade aura. He slowly exhaled and turned to Skunk, tapping at his chest with confidence, and nodding a little after. The Nis nodded back and boxed the former in a translucent cuboid. Skunk slowly broke his aeter to form concentric boxes and then magnified Daiden’s output in layers.

“This, this is…bloody spectacular!” remarked Daiden, in thought, speechless almost. With a tightened grip, he dug into the sand with soft steps, and hastened into a sprint immediately after.

In coordination, the lightning and jade auras clashed to combat the Sand King within its field. Against the Monarch, Daiden and Slide rushed with a multitude of attacks, in balance with the other. But the two combatants felt the pressure of defeat nonetheless, from the humanoid arachnid, wielding its greatsword with fluid ferocity. Daiden numbed around his wrists from even blocked attacks, while Slide managed to hold to his distance by using the length of his spear.

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As the armament waned, and under the sandstorm’s effect, Slide broke into a hot sweat, breathless.

“Switch with Carla, now!” commanded Skunk, from a distance.

With a nod, the spearman obliged and returned to Lina’s side. Daiden gulped, resisting fatigue with a rising rush in adrenalin. He peered into the Sand King’s eyes and refused to relent to the latter’s oppression. Carla aided in the effort by striking at the Natural Monarch with several bolts of lightning, summoning her rain clouds once more.

The Sand King parried the attacks by grounding its sword and burrowed into the sand, erupting into appearance near the group’s supports. The Monarch first subdued the resting spearman and turned towards Skunk next. With a swing, despite the expectation of blood, the humanoid monster slashed half-way into an earthen wall instead.

“Run, Lina!” yelled Skunk, hastily. “I can’t buy that much more time…”

The Natural Monarch smashed past the line of defence and raised its sword with caution, but felt its muscles still instead. In a frown, the Sand King turned its eyes to notice the injection of foreign aeter into its body, jade in colour.

[Verse One of Takshakan Swordsmanship]

Daiden sprinted into position, Carla a step behind.

“It’ll only last for four seconds,” warned Daiden, grimly. “Extend the disable! Now!

Skunk held to his composure and structured a different cuboid, hued in shades of orange. He tossed it towards the Sand King and noticed it take the shape of shackles, binding the Monarch to a standstill.

“I’ve bought you twenty seconds…” said Skunk, between breaths. “Take the bastard down!”

“I’ll try my best,” said Daiden, modestly. He kneed the Sand King on the back of its head, aided by the momentum of his sprint, and spun to connect with a kick as well. With the Monarch on the ground, Daiden thrust both his swords to an isolated point of impact. He felt a sharp, hard resistance.

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Daiden attacked once more, then more, in a relentless assault at the creature’s exoskeleton. His swords started to chip, failing with even his thirtieth attack from the Sword of Broken Probability. He counted the seconds in his mind, and past the tenth, he noticed something gnaw at his heart, constricting it even. Doubt.

“I can’t break the exoskeleton!” revealed Daiden, desperately. He stopped his swords to catch a breath, heaving through the effort. His eyes scanned the group and settled onto Carla. “You! Can you use your Lightning Soldier spell on me right now?”

Startled at first, Carla hurriedly nodded as an answer. She exchanged glances with Skunk and returned to Daiden with another nod. “I’ll do it.”

***

Daiden experienced a strange effect when armed with Carla’s elemental lightning. It soared into his aura and merged with the jade, to explode into something different, more powerful. His hair rose as well, afloat and in waves. He noticed his fingers burn with information, urging his Mioveroldian Page into existence.

[You’ve temporarily met the conditions for the Jade Lightning’s Breath (Degraded).]

Daiden swiped it away and raised his Heavy Iron Sword. He stabbed with an abundance of strength, soaring into an attack that cracked past the exoskeleton and through the Sand King’s body. But the Monarch retaliated. At the turn of the twentieth second, the arachnid monster turned and pounced at Daiden. With a crumpled expression, in display of its ugliness, the Sand King attacked with its greatsword, forcing its opponent onto the defensive. In desperation, it willed the sand into the shape of body-sized pyramids, trapping Carla, Skunk, and Lina as well.

“F***, this was a mistake…” thought Daiden. “I didn’t expect the armament to drain from my aeter source!”

Daiden resisted the Sand King for a few more seconds, in retreat from the latter’s onslaught. He pounded his chest and screamed for the light from Ehedus.

But in that moment, the Sand King experienced an anomaly. Daiden felt his luck shift, watching as Slide rose to strike at the Monarch, through its open wound. The spearman pinned the Sand King to the ground, weakening its control over its erected prisons. Once freed, Skunk reacted to the opportunity almost immediately, smashing the Natural Monarch’s head with an aeter-raised boulder.

The quartet roared in unison, with a torrent of attacks, while Daiden stumbled into a fall, drained of his strength. He breathed into the sand and smiled when the Sand King screeched its last in defiance of the situation, in vain.

“And that…that’s how I’ll start by leaving a mark!” managed Daiden, weakly.


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