Pillars of exhaust kept erupting from the ground like ghastly trees. Filling the field with a burnt scent and the sky with murky rain clouds.
The hunter watched Michael's arched figure for a brief moment before pointing one of his thick fingers straight at him.
"Nature Magic: Purifier's vine."
A fuming, white beam shot out from the tip like a laser. Homing in on Michael as it struck the carapace covering his chest.
A layer of white mist was generated from the impact. But to the hunter's surprise, the beast stood unscathed.
'The energy was dispersed?'
Drops of inky rain started steadily falling from above before beginning to hail down like bullets. Igniting something within the hunter's heart as his bright eyes turned dark green. Burning with an aura of the hunt!
He once more pulled back his spear like a blunt weapon. Condensing the essence of nature into it alongside his physical strength, before chanting with a scream!
"Wilderness Magic: Mortal Flayer!"
The spear gleamed with a pale light as it waved through the air. Sending out an ever-growing line of unstable pressure which unearthed the ground like a natural disaster!
Rock and dirt slabs were pushed up against the black rain without end as the slash traveled unhindered! Tearing apart anything that stood in its way until it dissipated a distance away.
However, following the attack's dissapearence, came a bewildered expression that forged itself over the hunter's face.
His line of sight was plastered onto the barely discernible sky above. Watching the armored beast now levitate with two, dark blue wings that sprouted from its back.
The hunter's bewilderment turned to perplexity as his confusion kept growing. Sadly, he was not allowed to gawk in awe for long.
The air around Michael's body began to rapidly spin like the nail on a drill as he started to transform. Sucking up parts of the ash and sulfur above ground. Covering himself with it like a veil before abruptly bursting forth with a sonic boom.
His streaking silhouette descended from the sky like a warhead encased in a shadow. Threatening to drown the world below with its might.
The hunter's expression turned from perplexed to severe as he prepared to counter-attack. Swinging his weapon once more.
"Wilderness Magic: Feral Shockwave!"
A tide of red whirlwind erupted from his spear's afterimage with a deafening roar. Aiming straight at the shroud of darkness like a fierce claw.
The hunter glared down the attacks as he prepared his next move. But his eyes gradually widened when seeing the ensuing collision.
When the meteorite of darkness and the bloody claw crashed into each other, the claw almost instantly crumbled. Reacting like a fish struck by a shark. Not even leaving the hunter any time to respond!
The ravenous cloud then hammered into the spot where he stood and detonated. Swallowing the entire area in a carpet of smoke.
However, from within the vast ocean of ash and sulfur, miniscule specks of green light could be seen slowly piercing through. Growing more and more numerous until they evolved into beaming obelisks.
"NATURE MAGIC: PURIFIER'S SPHERE!!!" As enough light leaked through, the hunter's frenzied cry broke out. His words causing the glittering rays to swell, before brightly flashing!
The dome of corruption was blast into nothingness as the green blaze erupted like a supercharged battery. Showing the world behind it.
In the middle, no one other than the hunter stood. However, he was in a sorry state.
His figure was decked with slabs of mangled flesh and bone-deep cuts. With mounds of tissue and muscle loosely hanging from the exposed skeleton like the hay from a naked scarecrow.
However, despite the damage, an emerald web quickly covered him again. Healing every wound and cut.
Sadly, when it disappeared, some things were left without any treatment.
The thin, brown beard had been drained off all color while his eyes were bloodshot like grapes. Emitting an aura of dread. Unable to forget the murky hooks and distorted blades that endlessly tore him apart only breaths ago.
'How is this possible?! I clearly sensed that I and this beast are both of the higher emperor layers! How is it able to beat me around like a dog?! If I hadn't had my lord's blessing...' The hunter's thoughts began circulating at an inhuman pace. Searching for an answer to his questions.
'No, its when it transforms! It must be increasing the constitution of its body depending on the type of form it takes.'
The air of panic around him waned as his mind became more apparent. Getting replaced by a raging flame of devotion and some inky rain which rolled over his skin.
'But why isn't it attacking me?! Is it perhaps trying to stall for time so to restore stamina?' The pupils in his eyes expanded as he finished thinking. Following a faint trace of divinity which tugged on his body like an ethereal string.
"YOU THINK YOU CAN HIDE FROM ME?!"
But as the hunter snapped back and forth around the uneven terrain, following this trail, his face suddenly paled.
Energy started coursing through his legs as he jumped with all his might. Fleeing into the world above.
But when his feet left the singed soil, the ponds of dark water which had amassed beneath swirled around like a sentient vortex. Growing increasingly more unstable until finally reaching the limit.
The spiraling pond then exploded like a hell portal as a giant, draconic shadow thundered out with a loud roar. Seemingly propelled forwards by the water!
The hunter felt desperation once more as he looked into the abyss that was its maw. Wanting to swallow him whole when eventually began to fall back down.
"Wilderness Magic: Mortal Gutter!" The hunter urgently readied the spear in his hand while chanting under his breath. Fueling it with everything he had.
A white light diffused out from the weapon. Coiling around him like a bullet's casing before he then thrust himself headfirst into the best's mouth. Speeding past the descending rain.
The ghostlike spike that was his body wildly slammed through the reptilian shadow like a pillar of tribunal lightning. Fragmenting it as he hit the earth once more.
A painful screech resonated when the shadow was destroyed. However, its roar was muted by the gales of power that rattled away from where the hunter stood.
He looked ferocious, yet worn. Heavily breathing in the putrid winds through long inhalations while his eyes kept wandering across the land. Reflecting an air of tiredness.
But the hunter had no time to rest. As before he could even take his third mouthful of air, he jumped back and thrust his spear down like a madman.
His own shadow then seemed to spring to life. Slithering past the tip of the weapon before taking on the shape of a humanoid beast. Shoving its sharp claws straight into his skull, while digging its thumbs into his eyes.
"AAAAHH!!" The hunter's terrorized cry of agony shook the land when the dark shrapnel tightened its hold. Causing his body to spasm and stir while the grip on his spear started to loosen.
His sense of self continuously flipped itself on and off like a shorting circuit as the shadow's nails burrowed into his brain. Injecting some sort of liquid inside.
The hunter's movement eventually grew dull while his skin started to rot.
However, not before a familiar green light started leaking out the crevises around his eye sockets and cracks in his skull.
The grip on his spear hardened again as he fought himself back up. Pridefully talking down at the beast like an undying emperor. Savoring the eternal vitality that erupted from his heart.
"You will fall, beast!!!"
The hunters' body started emitting a limitless force as he readied his weapon. Ignoring the nails digging into the lustrous, green holes in his head.
"JUST FU**ING DIE ALREADY!!!!"
[Innate Ability: Necrotizing Spores]
The intensifying, green light that seeped out from the hunters' body abruptly vanished. Getting drowned within an organic smog that discharged out from his orifices like the steam from an engine.
But despite the death cloud erupting from his body, the hunter did not falter. Rather, he began to thrust his weapon forward as a green speckle radiated from inside the shroud alongside a faint gargle.
However, he did not have a chance to attack as the shadow pulled back one of its claws alongside some of the skull, clenched it, and swiped it back through the air at an incredible speed!
The hunters' entire head disintegrated into oblivion as the gauzy fist banged into it. Launching the rest of his body through the uneven terrain as it turned to powder.
Michael's body then fell on all four as the shadow cloak around him scattered. Revealing his true figure.
His head had regained the traits of the beastking. However, his eyes, although having red veins all over, now looked more like a dragon's. Holding within two, glowing yellow irises and a vertical slit.
As for his trembling body, it was decked in a mixture of black, reptilian scales that oozed with dark energy, and protective plates which came from a centipede's shell. Resembling a skin-tight suit of miscolored chainmail.
But despite the ferocious appearance, an unending emanation of exhaustion and weakness flowed from him like an intangible vapor.
"Hrgh..." Michael heavily coughed out a mouthful of crimson flesh in a gory fashion while blood moderately trickled from his nostrils. Unable to do anything but listen to the blurred ringing in his aching brain and the system's constant warnings.
[Innate Ability: shadow cloak, has been deactivated]
[Warning!!! The host's energy reserve is almost completely drained! Please Refrain from activating skills and abilities!]
But the chronic pain gradually grew more tolerable as his chaos core kept amassing energy. Frantically utilizing both its own body and Michael's to generate more.
Although the speed was nothing impressive, having two different sources to draw on at least helped him recover sufficiently in a short time. Evident by how the solid red lumps shooting from his mouth were replaced by clothed blood while the stream from his nose thinned.
The scales and shells on his hand were cracked like glass, while some of the fingers were bent in different directions like broken branches.
"The centipedes' exoskeleton was barely able to disperse those attacks... Hrgh... But how is that possible?" Blood kept spilling from the gaps in his sharp teeth as he looked over the damage. Unable to understand how he had sustained such injuries.
"For a second... It felt like what I faced was not the energy of this world..."Michael's breathing did not slow down as he pushed the words from his mouth.
However, despite looking like a man about to fall, he pushed himself up on his feet. Trying to maintain his balance as the world temporarily started to spin.
"I need to... leave..." He started to regain his footing again as the energy of chaos grew more abundant within him. Allowing him to glance at the ashes of his enemy.
But just as some relief came to his mind, a gust of wind blew past his sharp ears. Carrying an accursed voice.
"....Who said you could leave?"
The ground started to fluctuate as the spots of earth holding the hunter's dispersed remains began to implode. Evening out the smashed flooring as it condensed into a single spot. Molding a humanoid puppet out from the bodies of black rainwater and chunks of dirt.
Michael's sharp pupils widened while his irises trembled in disbelief. Watching as the clay-like surface around the golem started cracking. Bathing him in an increasing number of faint, green rays...
Before the structure shattered in a glittering flare!
A wave of wild energy rippled through the air while fragments of stone flew across the arena like icy hail. Descending alongside the never-ending downpour.
Michaels' expression was mixed between a sour grimace and a glare of anguish as he watched the hunter's body re-emerge from the dimming shine. However, his anguished scowl quickly turned into a stare of astonishment.
The hair on the hunter's face and head had turned disheveled and grey, his dusky, green eyes sunken and tired, while his body was noticeably less muscular. He looked an old man on his last strings as a feeling of gloom perpetually lingered over him like a guillotine's blade.
"You are more incredible than I thought...-" The hunter tried to call with a tone of defeat. But before he could finish, Michael's facial muscles twitched.
A loud flick erupted from his lips as a bullet of bloody spit whistled through the wind and towards the hunter's head. Blasting a churning, tennis ball-sized fissure through his right eye.
"....-Which is why I cannot win on my own."
But to Michael's surprise, the hunter stood his ground. Summoning a long, hardwood spear in the palm of his hand which he then hammered into the earth like a pole. Finishing his performance with a gentle call...
The wooden spear started to diffuse an ever-present, verdant glow. Covering the land.
The field around the hunter shook under the illumination as a growing number of phantasmal beasts sprouted into existence like weeds.
"PROTECT ME!!!!" The hunter screamed out. Sending the charging creatures into a raging frenzy.
A bad premotion welled up inside Michaels' heart as he saw the pack of ghosts charge. Forcing him to channel whatever energy he had left through his limbs and try to amass more spit in his bloody and dry mouth.
But before he could finish either task, the rabid beings materialized all at once. Launching themselves at him like a swarm of bees.
With the physique of a noble hound, yet the size of a bear. Large paws shaped like carnivorous plants, grey fur similar to rotting flesh and a flecked maw containing deformed, yellow spikes. They dug into Michael like a toy. Submerging him in a river of their bodies.
The hunter solemnly watched for a moment before he knelt on the ground and closed his eyes. Beginning to devotedly speak to the weapon in his hand.
"You are the man in the trees, the green man of the forest who brings life to the dawning spring..."
Heart ripping howls resounded out as the beasts fought themselves onto Michael.
"You are the deer in the rut..."
However, it did not last long, as the flesh-tearing gnarls echoing from the hairy stream were drowned in shrills of despair. Making the hunter's feverous chants grow louder.
"Mighty horned one, who roams the autumn forest..."
But as he continued, waves of boiling smoke started seeping through the gaps of the primal tower. Increasing in volume alongside the agonizing whines.
"You are the hunter circling around the oak..."
The hellish pit then burst apart in a fiery explosion. Sending out a gale of heat that dragged the hunter's long, grey hair back while shooting his mangled hounds in every direction.
"You are the antlers of the wild stag..."
Michael's kneeling figure reappeared from within the storm of smoking corpses.
Flaming cracks and gaping wounds ran all over his body like the crevises on a cracked bulb.
Every breath he took ejecteded a stream of blood from his mouth, and onto the coal-like soil beneath.
"You are the lifeblood that spills over the earth each season!"
However, before he could take a moment to rest, the seated figure of the hunter appeared in his veiny eyes. Yelling out into the air.
His trembling eyes could only watch. Unable to move as he felt a formless pressure surround the land.
"GOD OF THE GREEN!"
A cocoon of emerald light burst out from the old man's body while tendrils of wood grew out from the spear and into his arms.
"LORD OF THE FOREST!!!"
Time seemed to slow down in Michael's eyes as his exhausted gaze turned desperate. Noticing the pressure thicken further.
'I only have enough life in me for one more assault...'
Michael pushed himself up, positioning himself like an Olympic sprinter about to run. Letting what power he had left surge.
[Innate Ability Activated: Chimera]
Dark scales and shells sprouted out from the wounds while his legs transformed into those of a deers. Seeping out a starry, blue powder through the hooves. Almost making him levitate.
'More.' The veins in his eyes burst like bubbles as his muscles keot expanding. Birthing two rives of blood that ran down his cheeks.
"I OFFER YOU MY SACRIFICE!!!"
"MORE!!" Michael howled through the echoing voice of the hunter and the deafening ringing in his brain as fiery, red light overflowed out from his pupils.
A scorching, crimson web started to crawl all over his body while a bloody waterfall flowed from his nostrils.
"I ASK ONLY FOR YOUR BLESSING!!!"
The emerald cocoon engulfing the hunter turned into a hurricane of divine radiance. Pushing away the dust around him.
"DIE!!!" Michael balefully cursed as he kicked against the ground. Streaking through the air like a red star while ripples of crimson heat continuously blazed off him.
And as he neared the emerald shell like a meteorite entering the atmosphere, he cocked back his arm and swung it like a flaming shard. Hammering it into the light.
A thundering shockwave shook the entire area as a tide of thermal energy was sendt out from the impact. Creating a steaming crater of hot air and seared stones.
But the sparked up sea of heat and fog disappeared almost as fast as it came.
The figure of Michael's body then re-emerged as the sun above twinkled past the departing clouds of ash. Bathing him in its rays.
But despite the atmosphere's tranquil nature, he was far from well.
He laid on the hot ground with his right arm blasted off. Barely hanging on as only a faint ticking within his mind tried to keep him awake.
As for on the opposite side of the crater?
There stood a tall man draped in a veil of smoke. Holding onto a hardwood spear in his right hand where the image of a horned snake was embedded, while resting his left to the side, as his fist was singed black like charcoal.
"To not only kill my champion, but also manage to injure me? An impressive feat indeed, Thief. In this world, you are a ruler."
The smoke kept dissipating as he whispered with a profound and deep voice. Revealing two, majestic antlers which shot out from the sides of his head.
Radiating a divine air.
A pair of emerald bulbs then lit up from within the evaporating cloud. Watching Michael's unmoving body lose consciousness from the severe energy loss. Impressed, yet expectant.
"Against a god?"
"There is no escape."
Sorry for the wait. The chapter was a little long, so I can only hope it made up for it.
Either way, thank you for your patience! Hope you enjoyed it!
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