The apostle grit his teeth, "How dare you talk about her like that you fucking bastard."
He aimed the crossbow towards Michael and fired a bolt.
It flew at an astonishing speed, but he could see it clearly. It wasn't exactly slow, but it would take far more than this to hit him, and he'd make damn sure it didn't hit him. The foundation had been very clear that his anti-projectile ring didn't work on anomalous projectiles, and it was pretty obvious this fell in that category.
Using his fingernail Michael made a small cut in his hand. Blood instantly sprung forth from the wound and intercepted the bolt once it was several yards away. The blood grabbed it by the shaft and deftly flung it back towards the apostle as if it were a dart.
It rocketed forwards, but right before it buried itself in the man's skull it came to an abrupt stop. It floated idly in the air inches from his eye as he grinned .
"Did you know that Order tries to make these little matches only occur between apostles of even strength? Because if that's all you have you'll be dying rather soon, and then I'll have that mask all for myself."
Michael could practically feel the killing intent radiating off the man.
"I wonder what I should do to it first. Oh I'll have plenty of time to brainstorm that later. For now I'll just need you to die"
The apostle raised his crossbow once again, but this time it faced the sky.
"May the winner reap the spoils."
Michael immediately swung his hammer as hard as he could despite being quite a distance away from the man. It would never hit from this far away, but what he wanted was to build momentum.
Michael disappeared with a flash of light and reappeared behind the apostle, the full force of his swing appearing mere inches from his head.
The hammer struck home, sending him flying into the swamp. Blood shot from both of their bodies and Michael immediately used his to strike down the bolts that came down upon him.
The bolts exploded into orbs of void as they were struck, eating away at the blood at a rapid pace.
Meanwhile Michael's soldiers fired upon the apostle, however their weapons seemed to be doing very little. The guy's body was absurdly durable.
But the real problem was his crossbow. He didn't even need to reload it, and he seemed to be able to control the bolts he fired at will.
A direct hit from the bolts would be crippling. Especially if it were to hit the crown.
"Well, time to properly utilize tools."
Michael mentally gave several orders to his soldiers and moved towards the apostle.
He stood amongst the muck, rubbing the side of his head where he'd been struck with the hammer. His blood stained the water around him.
He'd recovered quickly, already raising his crossbow and losing more bolts. He fired two every second and they flew far more unpredictably than before. They zigzagged through the sky and followed Michael as he teleported throughout the swamp, constantly changing direction in order to reach him.
This was going to be a problem.
Michael constantly teleported throughout the swamp as bolts swarmed the air around him. They were incessant, locking onto him no matter where he reappeared.
Taking another swing at the apostle seemed like a bad idea as well. He'd seen how the bolt he'd thrown idled in front of the apostle's face. It was pretty damn likely that the swamp water all around him was littered with the fuckers.
They'd eat through his body in seconds if too many came at him at once. He could deflect a few, but he was practically guaranteed to be hit.
He'd keep rushing him like an idiot as a plan B. Plan A still had quite a bit of promise. Afterall he was equipped with a piece of fashion made by a god to specifically go against Apostles of Order.
If there was ever a time to try to add somebody to the hivemind, it was now.
He was still somewhat apprehensive about using the spores, but what the apostle had said was right. They were pretty equal when it came to combat. He couldn't afford to hold back.
The bonding process of his soldiers had gone well, and four creatures of flesh stood in place of his soldiers. They were tall and broad, which was necessary for what he had planned.
Spores flowed from the creature's bodies, leaking from their skin and floating through the wind.
Time to set this in motion. He could already see the bolts homing in on his new constructs. But that was to be expected.
Michael gripped two by the shoulders and flashed from existence, reappearing in the air above the apostle. He quickly teleported back and couldn't help but grin.
He channeled the man's emotions through his heart and funneled them into the constructs. It wasn't much, but it was enough to make those two go off with a bang.
And that they did. Bolts shot upwards from within the swamp and orbs of void began to eat away at the creatures.
The first two were sent in to sweep the bolts. Michael quickly grabbed the other two constructs, spores overflowing from their bodies.
The next two were there to really fuck him over.
Michael repeated the same process he'd done to the first two, dropping them down upon the apostle from the air. Spores trailed behind them as they fell, bolts meeting them along the way.
But the apostle had already expended most of them on the last two, and he was quickly trying to leave their range.
Not that Michael would let him. With a flash he teleported in front of him, holding the road sign the witch had used to lure people to her cottage.
His eyes dilated for the moment as the corpses of the two constructs Michael had made hit the ground, spores literally exploding out of them.
The apostle's whole body shook as he tried to resist the influence of the sign. The thing was originally made to lead people to the witch, and now that she'd died it didn't seem like he knew exactly where to go.
His crossbow hit the water, and Michael stepped a decent distance away as he waited for the spores to settle into his body. Information was crucial, and the apostle would be happy to supply it once he'd been added to the hive mind.
But suddenly the glossiness in his eyes vanished as he quickly gripped the golden dagger at his side and swung it towards Michael.
Michael quickly stepped back, but misjudged its reach and the blade left a deep cut upon his chest. Completely ignoring his armor and cutting through it like it was nothing.
The apostle spit a small piece of flesh from his mouth that Michael immediately recognized to be the tip of his tongue. That was probably how he'd escaped the mind control.
Michael gripped his weapons, with the crossbow out of the equation this had become significantly easier.
He rushed towards the apostle who wielded his dagger with an expertise he'd never seen. Their weapons once again met, and despite everything, Michael was being pushed back. It didn't matter how fast he moved, the knife met his strikes perfectly, and he never missed an opportunity to counterattack.
But Michael noticed something strange, he studied the man and quickly realized the apostle's eyes had clouded over once again.
Was he still under the effects of the road sign? His ability to fight back suggested no, but it was unlikely he could simply cloud his eyes like that at will.
Which pointed the blame towards the dagger.
"Keith, what's that knife?"
"I don't know, probably some kind of semi-intelligent blade. It most likely imbues its user with a decent amount of ability towards wielding it. I'd guess it's running his body on autopilot thanks to your little trick with the sign."
"Well his higher brain function being gone is good I guess."
Strands of blood snaked from the wound upon Michael's chest and moved to pierce the apostle.
The knife moved quickly, blocking and parrying the blood. But it did give Michael quite the opening. The knife had made him incredibly skilled in combat, but it couldn't be everywhere at once.
Overwhelming it was simple.
Michael rushed in during the opening, his concentration peaking and making the world seem to move slower. He skirted past the blade, it leaving a shallow cut across his face as his mace finally met the man's skull.
Michael felt it crack under the pressure as the apostle fell to the ground. But despite that the man was still alive. Unconscious, but alive.
This battle was over, the spores had been doing their work throughout the fight and they'd nearly completed their task. His skin was festering and the spores had nearly spread throughout his whole body.
But before the infection could fully take hold the apostle's hand holding the golden knife began to shake.
Michael noticed this and teleported several dozen yards away just to be safe.
But it wasn't necessary, because the apostle in one fluid motion used the knife to pierce his own brain.
Meanwhile, back at the foundation several scientists stood in line at the facility cafeteria. Today was sloppy joe day. Today was good.
One scientist tried to make small talk while waiting in line.
"So Jannis, how are things?"
"Don't talk to me Larry."
Suddenly the space in front of them warped and twisted as it spit Michael out, causing him to fall down upon the counter where food was being served. His armor and clothes had been tattered and he was covered in blood.
Blood that quickly mixed into the food.
The scientists sighed, Houdini was back.
AN: I started up a patr.eon. So if you want to read ahead or support my ability to buy coffee, now you can. Also like and rate, and all that jazz. As always, thanks for reading!
Special thanks to WickedSmike.