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His right fist struck fast as a snake, but thanks to her superior training and rich battle experience, the talon managed to dodge it in the nick of time. Lith's knuckles still managed to graze her chin, the impact made her feel dizzy, forcing her to switch from a dodge to a roll.
The talon's view was blurry from the near hit, without that last second adjustment she would have collapsed on the floor, incapable of standing. Lith jumped back on his feet to finish her, but the other two were already on him, aiming for his vitals.
- "d.a.m.n, with no magic nor weapons, I can only block with my body. Solus, help me withstand the pain in case I lose some fingers."
"Not on my watch!" She mind yelled. –
Lith wasn't the only one that had been training to explore the limits of his new body. Ever since their almost clash with the Scorpicore, she had made several experiments about her shape-s.h.i.+fting abilities.
After being in the Small World for so long, she was able to overcome some of its restraints, if she put enough effort to it. Her ring form expanded covering Lith's right hand, forming a stone gauntlet.
This new form was silver in colour, with runes of power glowing all over its surface. She had no idea how to synch again her mana core with Lith's, but at least she could offer him some protection.
Lith was surprised as much as his two a.s.sailants, but none of them hesitated, keeping their emotions in check. The gloved hand supported by air and fire fusion, deflected all the strikes that could kill or incapacitate him, while Lith tanked the others with earth fusion.
Between his natural toughness and the magical hardening effect, the wounds he sustained were shallow enough to ignore them. They would only bleed a bit before starting to heal without him even needing to cast a spell.
There was a creepy sensation in the pith of the talons' stomach, telling them they were facing the thing that had killed their comrades. Every one of Lith's blocks would make their blades vibrate like they had clashed with a charging bull.
Their hands were getting number with each strike, making increasingly harder to keep the grip on their weapons.
- "What the f*ck is he? Magical items are supposed to not work, what in the G.o.ds' name is that gauntlet? How can a kid be so strong and fast? His movements are all over the place, but he manages to keep up with us. If only we could use our tattoos…"
The talons' tattoos were another one of Coirn Hatorne masterpieces. Despite not being a true mage, she had found a way to inject her potions directly in the client's skin, making it possible to activate them with a thought thanks to the imprinting process.
With Hatorne gone, they would be conservative in using them, since there was no way to replenish the tattoos. But in the face of death, they would have gladly spent them all.
Actually, their situation wasn't as desperate as it seemed.
- "Careful! Do not use fusion magic for too long, otherwise Small World could detect and block it too. Only use short bursts."
"Thanks for the advice. It's easier said than done, though. These guys are good, even with my enhanced reflexes I'm no match for three of them in such an enclosed s.p.a.ce. What about you? Can Small World shut you down?"
"It can try." She sneered. "I'm already following my own advice, boosting my defence only a moment before the impact." –
Being the first time Solus used such a trick, Lith was amazed by her ability in micro managing her abilities. She wasn't as good as she made herself look, though. The gauntlet form was a desperation move by itself, made even harder by the Small World's dampening effect.
Every time Solus missed the right timing, the Damascus blades would carve her thin form, if not even chipping away small pieces of stones. For her it was like being slashed and stabbed, but she held on bravely.
- "I'm just a piece of rock. I can heal from everything." – She thought in a hidden corner of her mind.
Lith too kept getting hit, but he would return each attack with double the violence. Two of the three talons were women, without their equipment and magic, they were like children compared to Lith's physical prowess.
The man of the group wasn't in a much better position. Despite Lith being unarmed, during every clash with his opponent, the talon would gain new bruises and cracked bones. The only reason they were still standing was because of their elite training and teamwork.
Lith was just an amateur, yet he had all the advantages. Small World wouldn't affect his abnormal body, fusion magic could subst.i.tute for potions and Solus was an excellent s.h.i.+eld.
The stalemate would have lasted long, if not for a talon's lucky shot. The man short sword hit Lith's right hand heavily. His two teammates had flanked Lith, forcing him to take the strike head on.
Lith managed to deviate the women's weapons at the last second by using quick elbow strikes, not leaving enough time to dodge or deflect the incoming attack. The blade managed to crack the gauntlet, making Solus yelp in pain.
It took a breath's time for him to strengthen their connection becoming finally aware of all her suffering, how battered she was. A seething hatred exploded within Lith, focusing his thoughts like a laser, erasing everything but the urge to kill.
Spirit magic surged, overcoming Small World pressure enough to allow Lith to push his opponents away and trigger the Death Call spell. Darkness magic condensed in the form of tentacles, before starting to mutate.
In his frenzy, Lith wasn't just merging his mana with the world's dark energies, but also those born from the abyss he kept in his mind and soul. Under the mask, his eyes glowed with a yellow light, like torches, the pupils reduced to vertical slits.
Solus felt the darkness spreading through Lith's body, flooding her with power. The stone pieces scattered around the tent reunited with the main body, fusing back into place like the damage had never happened.
The tentacles turned into a black fog, destroying everything on its path.
"What do you mean, Captain?" Queen Sylpha asked.
Kilian told them in the details the events leading up to Garith Senti's death.
The Royals were unimpressed.
"That's nothing new. We already knew that Lith from Lutia has no qualms killing. That idiot had it coming." King Meron snorted.
"That's your great discovery?"
"Yes, it is!" Kilian was baffled by their blindness.
"Sure, great mages and soldiers intimidating an enemy with just their aura is a common occurrence. But here we aren't talking about an expert, but about a kid, and a healer at that.
Yet he managed to scare the leader of the mercenary guild enough to make him kneel. The pressure his mana exerted made me and the soldiers take several steps back without even realizing it.
There was no greenhorn in that tent, yet we acted as such. Also, I could swear that the temperature dropped by several degrees."
Those presents were already sceptical about Kilian's words. After the last phrase, they started doubting his sanity. Varegrave couldn't believe his old friend coming up with such a childish excuse. His failure wasn't so big, after all.
Kilian could see the doubt in their eyes, but he didn't let it discourage him.
"Think about it. How come he is the only survivor of the ambush that took the lives of a whole unit of the Queen's corps? How come he is single-handedly solving the plague? How can he strike fear in battle hardened veterans?"
His words struck a nerve. There were still too many questions left unanswered.
"I am almost certain that he is hiding his real skills. I believe that he is capable of much more than just healing. No one can release a killing intent like that without talent and lots of practice.
I suggest we change his evaluation from A to S, but only in the royal records."
The idea that Lith was a talent on par with Manohar or Hatorne, with enough patience to keep his act for so long since so young was too disturbing to dismiss it without further inquiry.
- "If Kilian is right, then maybe he really is an Awakened one." The Queen used their telepathic link to share her worries with her husband.
"Agreed. We must ask Lady Tyris to make haste, she's the only one that can discover the truth." –
Meanwhile their conversation went on, an alien force started to seep in the world energy, creating ripples that reverberated through the entire continent, that only beings attuned with the world could perceive.
Tyris the griffon, right under the throne room, Leegaain the dragon, from the north, and Salaark the phoenix, from the south, they all turned their heads in the direction where the encampment was settled.
Rarely something capable of piquing their curiosity happened, and distance was no obstacle when they wished to speak to each other.
"It's not an Awakened, nor someone attempting to become a lich." Tyris pondered.
"And definitely it's not an Abomination turning into an Eldritch, nor a Monster evolving into a Guardian. I've never seen something like that before." Salaark added.
Leegaain was left with nothing to add but the obvious.
"That leaves us with a question: what the heck is that then?"