372 Close to Death
Cleric Occam had successfully disrupted the White Lady's song. He immediately celebrated by removing his dark coat, flexing his muscles, and screaming obscenities.
At whom the half-naked fellow was yelling to, Tycondrius had no idea.
A short distance away, the Dread Wraith had recovered from her fall. She had placed her ghostly hands together, condensing black and purple mana into what appeared to be a Third-Circle destruction spell. Mister Occam was about to be obliterated by a soul-rending sphere thrice his size.
Of course, Tycon was far enough from the spell's path and its subsequent danger. Though he wasn't willing to kill the Cleric, he had no qualms in *not* saving him.
"Eternal Flame!! ⌈Protect! The! FAITHFUL!!!!⌋" Gold-Rank Weaponmaster Bannok dashed in front of Occam, bracing his shield. A thick veil of silvery mana formed in front of the two.
"⌈Divine Bulwark!!!⌋" Gold-Rank Priestess Ariadne's voice rang out like a crystalline bell, golden mana reinforcing Bannok's defensive skill.
The White Lady's violent spell collided with the barrier, causing fantastical flashes of silver and gold, bouts of murky black darkness, and a thunderous cacophony.
As the dust and debris began to clear, Gold-Rank Hunter Felinus fired a barrage of blessed arrows at the Dungeon Boss, "Brazen Guard!!!! Cleanse this abomination from our lands!! The balance must be RESTORED!!!"
Tycon pursed his lips and sighed again, deeply.
He had underestimated the three leaders of the Brazen Guard. Freed from the control of whatever effect they were stuck in, they immediately closed in on the vulnerable Dread Wraith... saving Occam from absolute annihilation.
Tycon quietly turned back towards the rest of the battlefield to make sense of the chaos. All of the translucent members of the Brazen Guard had re-materialized and were either actively fighting the Dungeon Boss or had become corpses. Likely, those were the ones caught in the White Lady's Reality Marble.
Several others were still caught in their illusory worlds, marked by their unfocused actions. Tycon figured he'd relieve some stress by protecting those persons from themselves... perhaps breaking a few bones in the process.
"Stay away from me..." Zenon begged, his face marred by snot and tears. "How could the Eternal Flame suffer people like you to live..."
Tycon was somewhat taken aback by the rapid shift in Zenon's dreaming. Earlier, he was being rather violent. That was far preferable to the miserable state he had fallen to.
Zenon thrashed around with his tri-bladed claws, trying to fend off whatever assailed him. Tycon dodge to the side, out of the way of a clumsy cut. The follow-through crackled with lightning mana as Zenon cleaved into one of the frozen statues.
With his opponent off balance, Tycon kicked out with a flat heel to strike the tall gentleman's thigh, bringing his generally high elevation down to ground-level. He then swiftly and decisively mounted his back and... de-clawed him, unstrapping his forearm weapons and tossing them aside.
When Tycon stood up again, Zenon sat up. Placing his head between his knees, the grown man began to sob quietly, "Eternal Flame... why... do bad things happen to good people?"
Tycon grimaced. Even though his friend could not hear him as he was, he pat him on the back, "It is by mortal hands that our world is forged, Brother-Zenon, and by mortal hands that can achieve your vengeance."
If a friend of his sought revenge, there would be little reason not to pursue it. Loyalty and friendship were worth such a price-- depending on the person. Of course, Centurion Zenon would need the confidence to communicate whatever issues he was having.
Tycon would be waiting.
Zenon continued to rock himself quietly. That was fine. He would be safe in his small corner of the battlefield.
The sound of metal scraping along the ice steadily drew towards the two. Tycon stepped away, keeping between the Librarian and his newest opponent.
A human grinned as blood dripped down his face and stained his silvery hair... He was dragging his gore-covered greataxe along the ground, marking the frosty dirt with a trail of blood, "You will address me... as Orcus... god of battle."
⟬ Tancred Mors, Iron-Rank Human Reaver. Guild Stormbrand. ⟭
A short distance beyond him was an adventurer lying in a quickly growing pool of blood, convulsing as they bled to death. Tycon expected no less from a Stormbrand, to be able to disadvantage their mission to such an extent.
The Reaver hefted his heavy greataxe upon his shoulder, his eyes raging red with either Iron-Rank mana or a severe bacterial infection.
Tycon had feared this moment... but not for himself. He was worried that he'd take the opportunity to murder Tanamar's twin brother and Athena's... friend?
Associate? The two had known each other since childhood. What was their relationship?
"⌈Charging Bull⌋," Tancred used a movement technique to close the distance, attempting to check Tycon with his shoulder.
Too late to dodge, Tycon planted his feet and threw out a grounded left straight. He felt the satisfying sensation of kinetic energy transfer from the rotation of his hips, to the end of his fist, and into the right side of Tancred's face.
Relatively undeterred, save for a bloody split near his eye, Tancred swung his greataxe, "⌈Ravager's Strike⌋."
The disparity between Stormbrands was huge. Tancred and Occam were as resilient as pests. In the previous fights, others of their numbers were slaughtered like pigs.
Tycon had expended much of his stamina in his fight with Garock, but his Gold-Rank perception and physique was still more than enough to handle an unthinking Iron-Rank beast. He drew his short sword and deflected the attack's force away, then redirected his weapon, lacerating the Stormbrand's inner forearm.
Predictably, Tancred lost hold of his weapon... but Tycon had failed to account for a chain that secured the handle of his oversized hunk of metal to his wrist.
"I did this for you... Athena..." Tancred regained hold of his greataxe, heaving it up for another strike, "Why. won't. you. worship me?"
Tancred gnashed his teeth, the disgusting sound grating at Tycon's patience, "I. am. a. GOD!!!! ⌈Unbridled!!!! WRATH!!!⌋"
The Reaver swung his greataxe down-- a painfully telegraphed strike.
Tycon bobbed low and stepped to the side, easily avoiding it, "⌈Legionbreaker.⌋"
With a quick swipe, Tycon cut the weapon chain. Then, he quickly jabbed Tancred with his sword through his thick bicep, before grabbing the haft of the greataxe and tossing it away.
"GRAHRRR!!" Tancred threw a backfist, screaming like a petulant child with his favorite toy stolen away. Though Tycon had nothing to fear from such a weak attack, he danced away from it. He would not give even the mind-dominated fool the satisfaction of striking him.
Devoid of reason, Tancred Mors continued to give chase, punching and clawing. Tycon conserved his energy, dodging the human's frantic swings.
They were fast. They were powerful. However, as Tancred Mors continued to attack without a plan, the Reaver's fatigue quickly began to mount.
Tycon's one-on-one combat situation gave him no sense of urgency. There were so many ways to win... or rather, to not lose.
Tancred was slightly faster and moderately stronger, having the advantage of being a Martial Class... and the fortune of not-having to fight a Gold-Rank Samurai.
However, Tycon had a keenly superior sense of perception. He could predict Tancred's attacks with ease... not that the fellow did not try. The Reaver's tempo and attack patterns had great variety, but there were only so many variations of 'I will run at you and put my hands upon you.'
A few minutes in, the effectiveness of Tycon's tactic became apparent. Constantly evading attacks with efficient movement and breathing control kept his stamina reserves high. Conversely, Tancred's breath grew ragged and his movements slowed as his fatigue mounted.
Tycon remained patient. All he had to do was remain cognizant of the threat his opponent posed and not fall for their tricks.
If he took an errant attack and became injured, he'd withdraw. He had the speed and agility for it. Perhaps he'd enlist the help of another adventurer... or attack with the advantage of stealth or an armor-piercing crossbow.
He could also use one of his trump cards. His ⌈Vexing Gaze⌋ ability came to mind. If Tancred choked to death on his own blood, the murder would be difficult to trace back to him.
Or perhaps Tycon would convince someone else to kill him? Tycon wasn't so arrogant that he needed to defeat each of his opponents in single combat. Mission completion was always more important than a one-on-one duel.
The thought of it didn't even threaten his pride.
Tancred was a piece of shite, unfit to lead. Tycon did not need to kill him... or even prove himself by besting him. Between them, Tycon was the better human.
...But then again... why shouldn't he kill him?
Tancred was of no use to him. If either or both Tanamar and Athena had an issue with it, he could claim it was more advantageous for him to have offed Tancred than not. They would move on. There were more pressing issues House Vanzano faced.
Tycon flicked his wrist, segmenting his sword into its whip-form. He needed to inflict severe mortal injury to Tancred, with no hope of survival, even with Priestess Ariadne's healing in mind.
And for added personal benefit, Tycon would ensure it was as painful as possible.