With Kanari gone, Shin was left to sweep up the other forces of the Black Masks. Isadore, Suji and Natasha were doing their best to keep the Tier 6 Minotaur at bay while Shizen and the twins were fighting off the spawned Umbras and the remaining Shudras. Leafy vines sprung about as icicles flew, keeping as many foes as they could at bay. Hundreds of divine beads broke out of Elrin’s Rosary of Eternity and bound as many Umbras as they could.
At another corner, Danroy’s Bangeo Rhinoceros phantom rushed through the Shudras as if they were bowling pins, thinning down their numbers even more. They were fierce, the twenty-year-olds. Although they were outnumbered, the youngsters from the Imperius Academy were capable of at least holding their ground against the full might of Junius’ forces. A rare sight indeed, but that would only hold true if the three Vaishyas were kept at bay. And that task was solely depended on Kanari and Shin.
“We meet again, you fucking brat.” Craig circled his arms, sending out loud resonant cracks. He had been battered black and blue by Shin once before and the humiliation he sustained never subsided. Also, it didn’t help that Junius further punished him when they got back to the Crypts of the First Men, for attempting to murder his younger brother. If not for his lack of men, Junius may have cleanly cleaved off the miscreant’s head for backstabbing him not once, but twice.
“I see that your chest is well healed.” Shin entered his combative stance with a witty quip.
“No thanks to you.” It was like pouring cold water onto an open wound. The last time they fought, Shin had heavily injured the Vaishya multiple times by targeting his broad and open chest. If not for Susan continually healing his wounds, that fight might have gone in an entirely different direction.
Shin squinted his eyes as he felt the burning hostility being emitted out from Craig’s bulky body. There was resentment pulsating out from every pore of the Spirit Spectre’s body. However, there was one more emotion that Shin could feel by watching the monkey man’s expressions. And that was frustration. Most likely, Junius had laid down yet another order not to harm Shin, only to knock him out. Thus, the Vaishya was limited in his movements.
‘I could use this to my advantage…’ Shin thought. Loosening the grip on his spear, the Prince of Water allowed his weapon to turn into a puddle, stunning his opponent. A fighter dropping his armament before the battle even started? What did that mean?
“I’ve beaten you once before. So I don’t have to use my best weapon.” Shin took a deep breath in and recreated yet another water spear, this time with a serpentine tip. Slowly, he manipulated the water molecules within the weapon to freeze it entirely. Unlike the Spear of Aiglos, this weapon wasn’t wholly coated with an icy frost. Instead, it was glazed with a mossy green, making it seem more unsuspecting. “Shape-Style Technique, Spear of Visam. I can beat you with this lesser weapon.”
“You fucking brat!!!” The Vaishya’s face turned red hot, and steam started to flow out from the depths of his ears. The black winds that encircled his hands like wristbands accelerated violently, ready to tear Shin apart, limb from limb. “Susan! Give me all of your boosts! I’m going all out to teach him some manners!”
‘He fell for it!’ Shin cheered in his heart. He knew how impulsive Craig was after that one battle with him earlier in the month. Playing with his emotions, Shin managed to make the Vaishya erupt like a volcano. A clear mind would often make rational emotions. An angered mind, on the other hand…
Craig sped forward like a prized stallion with the wind behind his back. He wanted to push Shin back with all his hurricane might and eventually, wring his body for all to see. Though, Shin wasn’t going to make it that easy for the Vaishya. He anticipated the violent charge, and instantly cast his ‘Aegis Bubble’ and ‘Arcane River’ techniques. The barrier protected Shin from the explosive wind pressure while the ethereal river slowed Craig down significantly. From the depths of the river, thousands of water droplets emerged and created a false starry sky within the chambers. It was as if the milky way had made its appearance known once more.
It took less than a second for Shin’s first attack to land. ‘Meteor Shower’, a variant ability that Shin created after getting some inspirations from Kanari’s Lunar Beam, violently sped down like heavy water raindrops. Sonic booms and thousands of dust clouds flew about when the attack landed, but Craig remained unfazed. His spinning whirlwinds had protected him from any harm.
However, Shin’s combination wasn’t complete. Taking advantage of the Vaishya’s lack of focus, the ‘Arcane River’ that laid under his ankles began to bubble, bringing forth small, minor mines that would detonate at any second. Shin wanted to cast Mines of the Ocean, but he knew that it wouldn’t damage the Spirit Spectre whatsoever. Thus, Shin improvised and used the mines to hold the Vaishya in place while he prepared to launch his newly created ability.
‘Hit him! Mystic Geyser!!!’
The Arcane River congregated itself into a tremendous dense water ball and erupted with the violence of a thousand rampaging bulls. It was an attack that would rip apart armies and destroy limbs from any average Spirit Beast. Unfortunately…
“That’s all you got?” Emerging from the steam, Craig looked bored after being attacked multiple times by Shin’s created water. His apeman body continued to hold firm, with not a single scar or bruise in sight while the black whirlwinds spun rapidly, causing winds that sounded like dragons whistling. The Temporal Chains that were attached to Craig’s body continued to beam out mana, keeping him at maximum endurance and health.
“You still think that you can beat me?” The Vaisya scoffed.
“You fucking…” A vein popped in Craig’s forehead, and he bolted forward with everything that he’s got. After being underestimated by Shin for the thousandth time, the Vaishya didn’t care about Junius’ order. He was now out for blood.
In his Spiritual Body Enhancement mode, Shin likewise moved about like an agile cheetah, swerving his thickened body from side to side. The Spear of Visam spun to the back, with its hilt pointed forwards. The first punch that Craig threw missed entirely, allowing Shin to have an opening to strike the man’s chest. Not one to miss an open chance, Shin struck with everything that he had, bypassing the black whirlwinds that coated the man’s body.
The serpentine tip tasted blood for the first time this battle as Shin’s swing managed to land a little slice on the bottom of Craig’s left nipple. It wasn’t a deep wound, and it only served to anger the Vaishya even further. Craig crossed his muscular arms together and unleashed even more black winds, pushing Shin’s lean body as far away as possible. The Temporal Chains stuck to his back continued to shine in radiant light and closed the wound that he had sustained just a second prior.
“I told you! It’s useless!!!” Craig’s face grimaced, and his mana continued to spike.
“That stung…” That hit was heavy. Shin picked himself up only to taste iron flowed out from the corner of his mouth. He hadn’t faced such a brutal attack since Mychael’s Seismic Combinations. However, instead of feeling discouraged, the young man brimmed a bright smile. A bright golden-cerulean light emerged from his core and healed all of his injuries in a jiffy, just like how Susan did for Craig. “But I’ve tasted worse.”
“How fucking arrogant! I’m going to teach you a lesson on behalf of your brother!”
Shin pointed the Spear of Visam down and bent his knees. A dozen water spheres orbited around him like they were moons to his sun and his ankles were covered with similarly dense orbs. Shin smiled. “I would like to see you try.”
The battle waged on. Blood spilt and skin tore as the two apex predators continued to trade blows. Shin had analysed and studied Craig’s martial arts extensively and was able to exploit the weaknesses that he had with relative ease. On the other hand, the Vaishya’s explosive power and dark whirlwinds hammered Shin down with pure brute force. It was like watching a gladiator fight a tactician. Craig would use his overwhelming might to land brutal strikes on Shin while the young Prince of Water would use smart movements and planned timed attacks to wear the Vaishya down.
And to wear down, he did. After a few minutes, Craig felt that his punches had turned sluggish and his muscles were tensing up. Everything seemed to turn into fantasy through the vision of Craig, and his eyes were glazing over.
‘What’s going on?’ The Vaishya wondered. His mind had always been centred on demolishing Shin, and yet, everything had just turned blurry. Though, it wasn’t just Craig that felt the burns of battle. Shin was shivering as well. His healing abilities were top-notched for someone his age and his body has grown accustomed to repetitive breakdowns. However, taking the full might of a boosted Spirit Spectre while trying to trade blows with him proved to be too much, even for a prodigy like Shin.
‘But it’s all worth it.’ Shin laughed internally, desperately trying to stop his trembling hands. Continuously casting heal, Shin looked over at Craig, the arch on his lips creeping up in pure bliss. His crude plan had actually worked!
‘I’m…’ Before Craig could figure out what happened to him, he collapsed onto one knee, fighting off the throbbing aches that pulsated through his entire body. His veins were now on full view as they turned purple in colour and his inflated muscles had finally contracted. The fur on his body disappeared as Craig returned to his human form. His tongue was twisting, and his eyes inflamed. There was no denying it, the Vaishya was down and incapable of battling anymore.
“Craig!” Susan immediately flew down and placed her rough palms on Craig’s chest. There weren’t any visible injuries since she had healed them all so it could only mean one thing. “He poisoned you!” Susan gasped. They weren’t told that Shin held any capabilities of using poison!
‘P-Poison?’ The man couldn’t talk, but he could hear and think. Instantly, his mind wandered back to the mossy green spear that Shin had called a lesser weapon. If one had a level-head, would one really think that Shin would use a weaker weapon to battle a Spirit Spectre? No matter how arrogant he may be, Shin wasn’t a fool. ‘H-He tricked me!’
There was no way that the Spear of Visam was a lesser weapon. Yes, it may have less durability than the indestructible Spear of Aiglos, and it may be blunter due to its unique shape. However, the Spear of Visam was Shin’s specialised poison weapon laced with a toxin that was capable of killing ten adult elephants within a matter of minutes. It was a testament to Craig’s resilience that he was able to last this long, but just like how the sun always sets, once poisoned, there was only one destination for the doomed Vaishya.
“Damn it! Stay with me, Craig! I’m going to try to detoxify you now! Don’t-!” Susan was unable to complete her sentence before she felt something protruding out of her left breast. At the same time, Craig felt something intruding his left nipple. Looking down, the pair of Spirit Spectres saw a green pole connecting their bodies, and not in a good way. Shin had taken advantage of their confusion and launched a final thrust, piercing both their hearts in one strike.
“Never leave your back open to the enemy. Didn’t Junius or the Allfather teach you that?” Shin scoffed as he added more force to the inserted spear. He instantly willed for the Spear of Visam to melt, injecting the Vaishyas with even more deadly poison.
Now, there was literally no hope for the Spirit Spectres to leave alive. Even if Lady Seph were here, the only thing that she could do was ease their suffering before they headed for the afterlife.
“Craig… I…” Being one with the weaker constitution, Susan was the one who closed her eyes first. Falling into the embrace of the bulky man, the female Vaishya took the final plunge into the darkness.
Craig was unable to work out any rebuttal. He had lost and in a convincing manner. Shin outplayed him, outsmarted him, used his emotions against him and finally, systematically decimated him all. Even if he were to rewind time and do it all again, Craig was sure that Shin would kill him all the same.
“…” The Vaishya had kept his eyes open, but he couldn’t see anymore. His organs were failing, and his mind was in an absolute mess. The punctured heart had stopped pumping, and his mind was in shambles. There were no more words that could be formed from his mind or mouth and all that was left was…