- Part 13

Cosmic Girl, Starry Sky
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>> You have chosen the ‘Spined Rake’ out of the Day 2 daily login bonus <<
---

A crooked staff which split into several branches on one end, resembling rather closely to a rake, appeared from the window and landed in my hands.

At once, I felt my mind connect to the twisted charcoal-black stick, as well as what resided in it.

…They’ll be useful.

“Where did you get that from, Mr KC?”

As the three of us ran in the direction of the Amber Lynxes, Timayther saw me pull out the rake and asked.

“From my storage, Tim.” I answered. “It’s a gift, so to say.”

“It looks intimidating.” He added.

“I hope it’s strong as it looks.”

I glanced at the human person to my right, supporting her Mun Shaen partner as we moved along the cracked road.

She saw me alternate my gaze between the weapon I held and her face. In response, she only nodded and made a gesture of patting the side of her hip with her hand.

Already, huh. Looks like I was the only one that forgot.

There’s so much happening that I can’t really fault myself for forgetting about the daily login bonus, but it was smart for her to remember to get it before things go south.

Turning a corner, we finally saw more of the lynxes going around the town causing trouble. Four or five of them were tearing down the papers and folders in a stationery shop, burning them with their fangs.

Fortunately, it seems like no one else was in the store, meaning that the owners must have vacated the area already.

Dawon primed her blaster, but I held one arm in front of her and gripped the new equipment in the other.

“I’ll begin the attack.”

Tim moved out of the way while the two of us rushed over towards the shop.

With both arms on the rake, I poured my mind into the mental link and awakened the lifeform that made up the core of the weapon. The branches glowed purple as we charged up our attack.

As the light shone at its brightest, I swung the rake in an arc directly in front of us, sending a strong gust of wind into the entrance of the store.

The hellcats perked at the sound of the cyclone’s bellows, but in an enclosed space they couldn’t avoid the winds and were knocked against the walls of the store.

Piles of paper were blown off the shelves as the wind extinguished some of the fires the monsters started.

Being close to the source of the wind, Dawon and I felt a little of the chilling effect it had. Rather than a cold temperature, it was more like a sensation of bone-chilling fear and terror that went into the deepest parts of the heart.

The two of us entered the shop and saw the lynxes in a much worse state. There were five of them, three laid down on the floor convulsing, while the other two trembled as they struggled to get up.

We let no time to waste as we drew our weapons and cleaned up the shop.

“That’s a pretty scary weapon to have, KC.” Dawon commented as we went back out into the street. “Suppressing enemies without even needing to take them down!”

“Yeah,” I responded, “It’s pretty crazy how it works. I got lucky with the rolls today.”

As we joined up with Tim, I explained to them that the rake has a sort of ‘spirit’ that lives inside it, which made the gust of wind I used earlier. When I received the Spined Rake, I also got the thing that lived inside it.

---

We continued to look around the area, but no signs of additional Amber Lynxes could be found.

“Is that everything?” I mentioned.

“For now, at least.” Tim answered. “The ground tremors haven’t stopped yet, so the invasion must still be ongoing.”

Just as he finished speaking, we saw something explode with a heavy sound and bright light a few blocks away.

Following that sound, we arrived at a widened road riddled with debris, turned into a battlefield from the continuing fight.

Among the large craters that bore into the sandstone road and flattened buildings, the Flagrant Roar could be seen measuring itself up against the now larger crowd of Li Shaen responding to the threat.

Jumping up into the sky, the lionhead lifeform collected its energy into a condensed form, then released it as a fire dragon onto the people fighting it.

In response, the around six or seven Li Shaen rolled into cover away from the path of the dragon, travelling in a straight line towards where they were. Another explosion occurred as the condensed energy impacted the ground.

“Get down!” I unconsciously shouted. I crouched and turned away from the scene while Tim brought Dawon with him to the ground.

Before I knew it, the whole situation began to feel like a fantasy martial arts scene.

Looking back at the fight, I saw three people leap at the recovering challenger with what looked like melee weapons: Two of them held spears in both hands while the third swung a long axe down on it.

While the choice of weapons felt outdated, the weapons themselves were definitely cutting-edge: The tips of the spears glowed an intense blue, while the axe had jet exhausts that maximized the momentum of its swings. The melee fighters were in turn supported by a barrage of optical and radiation blasts from the four people behind them, wielding all sorts of advanced long-range weaponry.

Holding the axe, an older Li Shaen gave out orders as the leader of the party, and I saw Taran and Eretham carrying out the tasks they coordinated. Taran was one of the spearmen, while Eretham held a large gun that was around the size of Yeoreum’s Blue Surrender.

Timing their assaults and retreats with the salvo of gunfire from the ranged unit, the fighters were able to push the Flagrant Roar back, despite not using their Guardian abilities.

It is at this time that the lionhead invader made eye contact with us. It roared angrily, and the cracks that riddled the battlefield glowed red once again.

The hellcats that appeared from beneath the ground were larger this time around, with scythe-like blades that extended along all four of their limbs.

About ten of them emerged from the breaches, surrounding both the fighting team and the three of us.

I wasn’t sure if the Spined Rake would be as effective against them as before; we were fighting in an open space, and the lynxes were already alert of our presence.

“Ah, to hell with it.” I decided not to put the weapon away. The chilling winds should still be able to stagger the monsters for a bit, even if they know what’s coming.

“Hm?” I heard a voice from among the Li Shaen. Turning to look in its direction, I saw Eretham looking at us being surrounded by the elite hellcats.

“Tim, Dawon!” He called out to us. “…And you too, Human!”

“It’s KC, Eretham!” I replied.

He nodded in response and signaled to someone else in his team.

I couldn’t catch what he was trying to communicate as the pack of Amber Lynxes charged towards us.

Before I could act, a flash of blue moved past us and rushed towards the nearest lynx.

“CRUNCH”

It was Timayther who landed the first blow, bashing the face of the hellcat with the case of his hypnoteal.

“The rest is yours!” He said as he broke through the encirclement of hellcats and ran towards the cover where the gunners were.

It was quite brave of him to strike at an enemy, considering that he had no other means to defend himself. Still, his actions gave us the needed opening to act.

“SLASH”

I charged the rake’s attack and swung at one of the lynxes distracted by Tim’s escape. The weight of the weapon wasn’t enough to seriously injure it, but the chilling winds blasted it a few metres away.

Another two of them leapt right at me, taking advantage of the second of vulnerability I have at the end of my attack.

Not used to the lighter, longer weapon, I couldn’t block their claws as they pounced on me, pushing me to the ground.

The lynxes bared their fangs and tore into the force field surrounding my body. The energy levels on my Hazard Shield began to drop sharply.

Thrown onto my back, it was difficult for me to repel their aggressive attacks;

the saber was too long to use at this range, and I wouldn’t be able to grip the blaster in my hands as steadily while being ravaged.

Looks like I’ll just have to do this the old-fashioned way.

I blocked my face with my two arms as I endured their continuous assault. After several seconds, frustrated with not being able to break through my shields, the lynxes began to adopt a different strategy.

Whatever that strategy was, I didn’t wait around to find out. As soon as one of them relented, I reached for its head with my hand, clung onto the dark red hide on its face and slammed it onto the ground.

Using the opposite force to rise up from the ground, I brought out the blaster and fired a few shots into the other monster aiming for my legs. All the rays hit its body, causing it to retreat by a few steps.

Immediately after, I rolled out of the way and brought out my riot shield, facing it against the hellcats while still kneeling on the ground.

As we examined each other in silence, the earlier lynx that was hit by the rake joined up with the other two, its bladed legs still shaking a little.

I stole a glance to the side and saw Dawon moving around the battlefield, agilely avoiding the claws and scythes of two other hellcats.

I felt the jar of fluid I set aside in the inventory, ready to be used.

It was unfortunate that we were up against enemies that could use heat and energy, which meant that it’ll probably only give us a few minutes of time at most.

With that in mind, no one would let their opponent bring out a container of water and pour it gently onto the ground without doing anything. I certainly won’t.

Thus, I was the first to charge. With the riot shield in front of me, I ran towards the three lynxes with the intention of battering them against the reinforced metal.

As expected, they dodged out of the way before I could get to them. Naturally, with their agility far superior to mine, they pounced onto my exposed back.

Before they could reach me, however, I shouted,

“Dawon, over here!”

I slid down on the ground, holding the riot shield close to me, exterior facing upwards.

“Here I come!” Said the voice I heard right after. The sound of quick footsteps became louder as it approached me, before I felt a heavy thump on the reinforced metal I gripped.

It was spontaneous and unplanned, but she could understand what I wanted to do: She ran towards me and used the shield I propped up as a platform to jump up into the sky.

Soaring through the air, Dawon drew her blaster and fired a volley of shots at the three lynxes chasing me down. Caught off guard, they got hit by the laser beams and scattered away.

Down on the ground, I switched the shield out with the Spined Rake, charged it up as much as I could, then released a gust of chilling wind to the other two hellcats in front of me.

As the harrowing cold air disrupted their states of mind, I put the rake away and drew my saber again. Affected by the mental attack, they couldn’t react properly in time as I ran up and jammed the length of my weapon through one of their necks.

As expected, these monsters were more difficult to kill; even on the thinnest section, the hide was so tough that I had to use both of my arms to force the saber through. The second lynx retreated away, while the one I struck struggled to break free of my hold.

“You don’t go down without a fight.”

I told it, regardless of whether or not it understood me.

“But I’ll send you off now.”

My right hand let go of the saber, pulled the barrel of the blaster I brought out up against the side of its head, and put several rounds of searing hot laser into its skull.

“KC!” Dawon’s voice called my name as the fallen lynx turned to ash below me.

She was still evading the lynxes’ attacks, but with three of them eve she was starting to be cornered.

“Give me a few seconds!”

I was still cautious of the second lynx, but seeing it being less aggressive because of the chilling effect gave me a bit more leeway to act.

It’s already Day 2 and I still have three of these. Better now than never!

I brought up the container of blue fluid and poured half of its contents into the ground in front of me.

“Hope this works.” I said to myself, putting the Assaudine Solution away. Bringing up the riot shield in its place, I kept my eyes trained on the monster facing me.

Soon after, the ground trembled beneath us.

Here it comes!

To the mound of earth that rose between me and my opponent, I sent out my order.

“Crush the hellcats under your might, Golem!”

A giant stone arm burst out of that mound of earth, reaching for the Amber Lynx in front of me. With reflexes quicker than expected of its size, the hand grabbed the lynx’s entire body and threw it in Dawon’s direction, accurately hitting one of the monsters attacking her mid-leap.

The force of the throw was strong enough to severely injure both the hurled lynx and the one in its path.

“Nice.”

Seeing that the exertive bacteria didn’t immediately die out in Udepra and the hellcats’ temperature, I readied the riot shield and PBS and rushed over to Dawon’s side.

“Need a hand?”

“About time!”

---

Seeing the two of us join up, the two lynxes unaffected by the golem’s throw became wary of their situation.

In a battle like this one, every teammate mattered. That they’re down to only two on their side in such a short time definitely brought a shock to them.

“Boom, boom…”

With heavy footsteps, both sides of the fight were made aware of the rock giant approaching us.

Having successfully amassed enough of its body, the golem turned from its initial arm shape into a rough humanoid form, and walked over to our side.

However, before it could reach us, a ball of fire appeared out of nowhere, hurling itself towards its face.

The impact made it lose its balance and fall onto the debris-ridden battlefield carved out of the streets.

Moving away from the burning fragments, we turned to look at where the strike came from. Looking upwards, it was the Flagrant Roar who launched that attack, watching us from atop a building.

Five Amber Lynxes weren’t really a match for the team of seven Li Shaen, but their focusing on the ranged fighters distracted the party long enough for their master to turn its attention on us.

This is bad.

Their underlings were free game, but only the Li Shaen were allowed to fight Udepra’s challengers. However, the other side had no such rule:

They could destroy anything and everything they want, and only the Li could put an end to it.

This meant that we could only avoid or defend ourselves against the Flagrant Roar’s rampage, unable to fight back.

Taking advantage of the situation, the hellcats that were careful earlier leapt into the fray, swiping their claws and scythes at us.

Barely evading the blades that flew close to my body, I checked the golem that was still recovering from the lionhead challenger’s attack.

Most of the head was blasted off, but everything else was fine; only one-fifth or so of the exertive bacteria was destroyed by the fireball. If the Flagrant Roar continued to focus on it, however, I didn’t know how long the rest of them will survive.

Without a moment to spare, the challenger inhaled the energy around it, condensing it into a bright red beam in our direction.

We barely evaded the energy blast by leaping to either side of the impact point.

However, before I could even recover from my jump, strong heat could be felt on my skin, coming from the mane of the burning lifeform that appeared on my right. The Flagrant Roar has already reached me in that short span of time.

Crap—

With a resounding impact, it dug a heavy fist up into my guts and blasted me away onto the walls on the third storey of a building.

“Mr KC!!” I could hear Tim’s voice in the distance.

The force field of my Hazard Shield cracked, barely able to block the deadliest parts of its attack. I felt a strong pain in my abdomen from the punch, as well as the aching on my back smashed onto the building’s walls.

For the first time in Hyperspace Frontier, I received the full-power attack from a threat beyond what I could fight.

I struggled to keep my vision clear, my eyes locked onto the lionhead challenger that beat my Hazard Shield within an inch of its life.

“KC!” Dawon shouted. As the two lynxes continued to close in on her and the golem, she couldn’t break free of their attacks to come and help me.

I didn’t falter as I continued to stare at the Flagrant Roar stepping on my riot shield, causing it to crack and explode under its foot. My saber was flung further away from the battlefield when I was struck by the uppercut, but the shield wasn’t as lucky.

Still reeling from the shock, I faced the very real possibility of dying for the first time to a terribly powerful monster I can’t even fight.

…At this point, however, all I wanted to see was what more it could do.

Before the lionhead lifeform could turn around to deal with my teammate,

“Is that all you got?” I mentioned, loud enough for it to hear.

The challenger’s eyebrow raised as it turned back to face me.

“I thought that you’d be stronger than this,” I continued, “But I guess I was mistaken.”

In response to my provocation, the challenger practically teleported to in front of me, and used its arm to forcefully my body deeper into the brick walls of the building.

The cold eyes of the Flagrant Roar looked down onto my dirtied, as if saying:

Pitiful words of a dying lifeform.

Laughter could be heard throughout the ruined streets. Quiet, composed laughter.

Only, it wasn’t from the jaws of the lionhead lifeform.

“I guess emotions would still blind someone like you.” I chuckled.

Showing the challenger a helpless smile,

“See you around.”

The heavy blade of a long axe forcefully embedded itself to the left temple of the lifeform’s head as soon as I finished my words, sending it away and making it release its grip on me.

Immediately after, a volley of gunfire rained down on its falling body, as one of the spear holding Li Shaen went over to my side.

I fell into her strong, molten arms helpless, the façade I held disappearing into a pool of exhaustion.

“Good work, Human.” She commended.

“Thanks.” I replied.

The strong front I put up against the challenger took up almost the entirety of my energy, acting as confident as I could to distract it from the Li Shaen team which was almost done dealing with the five Amber Lynxes raiding them.

As she descended onto the ground with me in her arms, I saw Eretham and another gunner run over to Dawon’s side, firing at the remaining lynxes.

I saw them give Dawon a double-tipped spear of her own, while she explained to them that the golem I activated was an ally.

The Li Shaen carrying me set me down on an area cleared of danger.

With the lynxes scattered and the Flagrant Roar forced to retreat under the barrage of gunfire, the immediate vicinity was safe for the most part.

---

As the team of Li Shaen ran to pursue their opponent, the spear holder with me left with Eretham and the other gunner to join up with them.

“Are you okay?” Tim asked. He stayed behind to join up with us.

Still lying on the ground, I nodded and pointed to my arm; specifically, the frayed section of the force field on it.

“The Hazard Shield’s a little fried from the lionhead’s attacks. I can charge it with the power cells I have, but it’ll have only 1/4 of its original capacity at this state.”

“Will you be okay?”

“I can manage.”

The riot shield I had from back in Day 1 was destroyed by the challenger, but it’s not like it was that expensive to make.

Still, with the Hazard Shield in disrepair, I won’t be able to play the active role in a fight as much now.

Suddenly, Dawon handed me what looked like a firearm. The large gun had a white and purple colour scheme, with a barrel that widened at the barrel towards the muzzle.

I slowly got up from the ground to take it from her hand.

Examining the gun, I saw that where the bore should be was instead occupied by a rubbery membrane diaphragm.

“From Eretham and his friend.” She said.

I saw a notification pop up in front of me.

‘Insufficient Prestige to use equipment’

‘Prestige Requirement Bypassed – Consent of Holder’

Insufficient Prestige?

I thought about the tech and parts that were sold back in the Exchange Centre. Even if we had the money, there were some products that we couldn’t buy with the Prestige we had.

This must be a high-grade weapon, then.

I checked the description written for the gun in my hands.

‘BEK-05 Bitter Howl’. It emits a powerful soundwave that can incapacitate certain targets.

“A sonic weapon?” I asked. “At this grade?”

“It’s enough to mess up the Amber Lynxes, giving us time to catch them.” Dawon replied. “Plus, anyone still in the houses and shops will hear it and know that help is here.”

As she spoke, I saw her take out a weapon of her own. It was the double-tipped spear the Li Shaen gave her before.

“What is that spear?” I asked, curious.

I looked at the tips of the spear more closely. Where I expected metal spearheads would be, drill bits instead floated in their position, spinning gently at both ends of the metallic pole.

“The Whirring Symphony. They bypassed the Prestige requirements for this as well.”

“It works the way you think it does,” She continued. “But I can also shoot out energy blasts from either end.”

A melee weapon with ranged capability, suitable for the balanced fighting style Dawon used.

I looked around the area, and laid my eyes on the golem close to us, standing by. It lost a bit of mass, but otherwise it had completely recovered from the lionhead’s fireball attack.

Assessing the situation,

“It looks like I’ll have to stay back and support you and the golem from behind, Dawon.”

Both the Bitter Howl and Spined Rake geared towards ranged combat. Along with my weakened shields, it made more sense for me to switch over to an artillery role.

“What if they get to you, KC?” Dawon asked.

We knew what happened when the lynxes ambushed the gunners of the Li Shaen team, and none of us were confident that we would fare any better.

“I can take a few hits.” I answered.

I approached a rubble of stones and pulled out the Pulsar Beam Saber underneath them. Then, picking up the remains of the shattered riot shield,

“I still have the materials to craft a new shield for myself.” I continued. “But beyond that, I’ll have to rely on you to come to the rescue.”

I showed her and Tim a feeble smile.

“I’ll do my best.” Dawon reassured me. “We’ll get out of this crisis alive.”

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, Dawon.” I let out a little laugh. “We’re just volunteers after all.”

Plus, I eyed the pile of Nysertium still in my inventory. Opening another window, I scrolled through the available options and made my plan.

“Once everyone’s ready, we’ll go after the lynxes that escaped, then catch up with the Li Shaen team.”

---

The brassy sound of the Bitter Howl blared as purple shockwaves fired onto the pack of hellcats in front of us.

The scythed ones jumped out of the way, but the normal ones were caught up in the crossfire and fell onto the ground shaking.

The golem forged a large blade out of its left arm and smashed it onto one of the affected hellcats, ending its life instantly.

Dawon leaped forwards and struck her spear into a few of the others, turning them into ash.

The two frontliners advanced through the battlefield while I supported their charge with the sonic gun, keeping the situation under control.

We came across this pack of Amber Lynxes shortly after we set off to chase after the main fighting team.

It looked like the Flagrant Roar called in more of these monsters in an effort to lure away the Li fighters, but it didn’t work out.

The unaffected hellcats rejoined the fray, and Dawon and the golem responded in kind.

The combined fighting power of my two teammates was enough to keep them occupied, so I stayed out of the way and put a few shots onto the ones careless enough to stay still in battle.

After a while, the stragglers from the enemy side began fleeing the battlefield, realizing their situation.

As the situation subsided, I brought out the Spined Rake and set it on the ground, branched end down. As I let my grip loose, the length of the crooked pole emanated a white glow, different from the purple it usually did.

This was the second function of the Spined Rake: Spirit Sentry.

The lifeform manifested itself as a white wisp that coiled around the rake. Its head turned in my direction and nodded.

The wisp couldn’t defend itself and the rake against direct attacks, but it can fire chilling winds on its own and alert me to any sudden developments on the battlefield.

It was a useful function for a situation like this, when I couldn’t afford to let my guard down.

Assigning it the role of watchman, I went back into the inventory and continued working on crafting my new shield, fiddling around with the tools in the window.

It was a waste of Nysertium to use the metal on low-level crafting like this, but I had plenty of the material to spare.

Nysertium, Armatine power cells, the alloys I picked up back on Mars…

The process was going well so far, utilizing the resources I picked up from the previous day.

I examined the several parts of metal isolated from the rest of the inventory. The weight of responsibility that came with these salvaged materials wasn’t light.

“You’ll help me live and save the others, Guinness.”

This is a shield, after all.

Incorporating some of the Magna body’s salvage into the shield, the construction moved forward.

The wisp on the Spined Rake suddenly let out a high-pitched scream.

At once, I put away the inventory window and pulled the rake out of the ground, before rolling away.

Narrowly avoiding the swipe of a lynx’s scythe, I pointed the pole at it and fired another gust of wind.

It took the wisp some time to switch out from sentry mode back into a weapon, but it fired the chilling wind in time to hit the lynx head-on as it charged towards me.

I locked my eyes on the monster as it tumbled to the ground. It seemed to have snuck up on me from the ruins of a burning building, avoiding the frontliners’ attention.

“Are you alright, Mr KC!?” Timayther went up to me and examined my body.

“It’s fine, Tim.” I answered him.

He turned to the hellcat and glared at it strongly.

With a whimper, it shrunk back and began to run away, but not before Dawon pierced her spear through its head.

“Thanks for the help.” I said to him. He nodded his head in response.

Somewhere along the way, Timayther found out that the underlings of Udepra’s challengers were naturally afraid of the Mun Shaen. He couldn’t use his Guardian powers under the laws of the Pact, but the monsters of fire could still see the tremendous cold energy inside his body.

At least, that was the explanation he gave me.

“Are you okay, KC?” Dawon came over to my side, repeating Tim’s question.

“Yeah.” I gave her a nod. Then,

“I don’t know if I’m the one that should apologize,” I began, “But sorry about that dress.”

I examined her clothes and saw the dust and soil everywhere on her top. The cardigan and skirt fared far worse, tattered at the edges.

“You’re not better off either, KC.” She replied.

She pointed out the streaks and patches of black on my shirt and trousers, sustained from the lynxes’ attacks. The torso area was also ruined from the Flagrant Roar’s single punch.

Seeing the state of my own outfit, I could only shrug.

“Part and parcel of the work, I guess.”

Looking around, I saw the golem running around in the battlefield, finishing up the rest of the fight.

It should be over in a minute or two. I turned back to my work in the inventory to make full use of the time.

Moving the materials around in the assembly window, I check the projected stats of the completed shield and made adjustments according to the crafting guidance.

Cutting away some of the metal, I integrated the active component of the power cells along the ridge.

A little more…

The edge glowed yellow and let out a burst of heat.

Done.

“Anyone there?”

At this time, the three of us heard a muffled voice from somewhere around the area.

“Over there!” It was Tim who located where it was coming from. On the second floor of a building was a human man, waving his arms at us.

“Are you part of the response team?” He asked.

“We’re volunteers!” Dawon answered, placing her spear back in her inventory.

“Is it safe to come out now?” He continued. “Me and my family didn’t make it out when the first evacuation came around!”

We didn’t respond to his question immediately. The streets around us were quiet, but that didn’t necessarily mean that they were safe.

After a brief discussion among the team, we came to a discussion. Turning back to him,

“We’ve handled a situation a bit here, but we’re not sure if it’s safe anywhere else!” I shouted back. “We don’t know what the people in charge would do, but we think it’s best if you stay where you are and block the doors and windows until it’s over!”

He nodded and turned back away from the window, speaking to the other people with him.

If he was here the whole time,

“Do you know where the main fighting team went?” I went over to the building where he was and asked.

After a few seconds, his head poked back out from the window. Repeating the question again,

“They went in that direction!” He pointed towards the road that led to the centre of Mavacena.

As expected, remnants of battle and destruction lay around the streets, devoid of life, while the rumbling of explosions and houses crashing could be heard in the distance.

A battle for dominance is still a battle after all. It makes me think of how much I’ve taken the peace we had for granted.

“Got it,” I answered. “Let’s go, everyone. Golem, follow us!!”

Not wasting anymore time, we ran towards the sound of battle further ahead. I unconsciously prayed in my heart that the fight will end soon.

---

We arrived at the scene of battle amidst a wreck of buildings, red hot from the fires that destroyed them.

The Flagrant Roar could be seen surrounded by the party of Li Shaen responders, wounds all over its body from which blood seeped out like molten steel.

The gunners were barely able to keep their guns aimed at it, while the close ranged fighters were heaving raggedly; I could see that the team was getting tired as well.

The lionhead lifeform saw us come into view and glared resentfully at me. It seemed like it had a grudge against me for having fallen for my scheme back then, allowing the fighting team to catch it off guard.

However, it couldn’t spare any attention for anything else other than the battle. The Li Shaen were mounting an advantage over it in the fight, keeping it tied down where it was.

The team cornered it and closed on it, ready to take it down.

Suddenly, the challenger roared louder than ever before.

Its scarred body glowed the colour of magma and the heat radiating from it caused its mane to sway in the wind.

The shockwave could be felt all the way here. I could barely keep my balance as Dawon held on to me and Tim, trying to stay standing.

The Flagrant Roar’s behaviour was similar to that of enemies in other games, turning into a frenzied state in the last stage of the battle.

Suddenly, he shot out an intense round of fire between the gaps of the team. Without warning, the searing beam went past the fighters and shot straight at where we were.

He aimed the attack at neither the Li Shaen he fought, nor me who tricked him into getting struck down by them.

The white-hot fireball whizzed inches away from my head, aiming for the person not a metre away to my back.

“NO!!”

I didn’t even get the chance to turn back as Timayther screamed. The round struck, its impact engulfing all four of us in an excruciating blast of fire, throwing me away from the centre of the explosion.

I felt a burning heat throughout my body as the Hazard Shield sizzled, barely holding on to its life. Crashing down on the ground, I wasn’t able to get up or make sense of the situation for a few seconds.

When the shock cleared, I heard the sounds of gunfire and clashing as the Li Shaen fighters continued their fight with their opponent.

Dawon, Tim! Where are they!? Dawon!

Among the smoke that remained from the explosion, I tried my best to look for any signs of them around the area.

What I eventually saw made me gasp. The figure of a human woman stood still in front of a cyan-coloured lifeform, clutching a broken spear in her hands.

Timayther wasn’t injured, but no one could say the same for the person that protected him.

The fabric of her clothes wasn’t the only thing that burned away. As the sparks of her Hazard Shield indicated its inability to block the attack fully,

…I could see the skin on Dawon’s arms and shoulders charred red, the agony from the burning pain showing on her face.

The Whirring Symphony was shattered on one end, the drill bit missing from it. She must have blocked the incoming attack with an energy blast of her own, in an effort to lessen the damage.

Before I could act, Timayther went over to his injured partner and examined her condition.

“Why did you take the hit, Miss Dawon!?” He cried out. “I’m a Mun Shaen, you know fire won’t hurt me that easily!”

Unable to keep standing, she fell to her knees, her spear into the ground the only thing keeping her body upright.

“What if you get injured and cannot perform anymore, Tim?” She responded with a shaky voice. “I don’t want you to lose your dream.”

Timayther stood speechless as I regained my senses and ran over to them.

Grabbing Dawon by the shoulder, I stared at the person whose face was close to mine.

“Dawon.” I felt a solemn expression on my face.

“…It’ll be fine, KC.” She tried to reassure me. “I’m an explorer, right? Just like you.”

“Of course you’re fine, Dawon.” I responded. “That’s what you’ve been telling me all this while today.”

The words I spoke made her look up and stare at me.

“I can see that that’s not the case.” I continued, “Do you know how much it hurts me to see you in pain?”

The thought of any of my beloved girls being in harm’s way would already bring my blood to a boil, not least herself. How could I stay calm at the sight of it?

Dawon’s answer was, however, immediate, carrying the same tone mine did.

“Then you should know how I felt seeing the challenger smash you into the building, KC.”

I was taken aback by her serious stare.

She was legitimately angry at me for what happened back then.

However, her expression loosened soon after, and, with a sigh,

“I guess that makes it even between us.” She shrugged. “Both our shields are ruined now, and that thing destroyed your shield and my weapon.”

“Yeah.” I hung my head down in shame, “I’m sorry, Dawon.”

“I’ll get Miss Dawon away from the fight for a bit, to help her recover.” Timayther offered. He had a stature smaller than the Li Shaen fighters here, but it was still large enough to bring his partner away from the battlefield without problems.

“Join you in a bit.” She left me with those words as the Mun Shaen carried her away.

Sending them off, I turned to look at the scene of the main engagement once again.

However, I was almost blind to the seven people fighting the Flagrant Roar as my eyes set themselves on the enraged lionhead lifeform.

Deep-seated fury welled up within me.

Someone I cared for went through so much pain, and the perpetrator was right in front of me; how could I stay calm?

I prepared to bring out every weapon I had in my arsenal, even having my ship ready to fly in at a moment’s notice.

At this point, I didn’t care what the rules of the Shaen and Udepra were; no one hurts the people I love and gets away with it.

However,

“Stay your hand, Human.”

---

A quiet voice brought me back to my senses.

A grizzly behemoth of a person appeared out of nowhere to my left, raising his arm as to hold me back. Through his soiled clothes, the brawny muscles of his body glowed a gentle orange.

“The anger that flows through you is something I understand very well,” He continued.

“However, your actions will bring yourself and those of us more harm than good.”

“So we’re supposed to just stand here and take the hit while waiting for you people to come save us!?” My voice raised without me knowing. “Tell me, how is this fair!?”

“The challenges were always a matter of our own,” The elderly face of the Li Shaen had both his eyes on mine. As the wrinkles around them deepened, “It was you who offered yourselves to the resistance, wasn’t it?”

I moved my lips to say something in return, but none of the words I had in my mind could deny what he said. The helplessness and frustration brought me close to tears as I fell to my knees.

Still,

“The law of the lands dictates that only we can subdue the challengers that oppose our rule.” He continued.

Looking at the other seven people laying their lives on the line against the rampaging lionhead lifeform,

“What we fight them with, however, is a different story.” His eyes remaining on the battlefield, “Look at the warriors: None of their weapons are of Shaen make.”

Turning back to face me, he finished his explanation.

“You’re an explorer, aren’t you? Immerse yourself in the ways of creation and you’ll contribute to the fight more than you can perceive.”

Suddenly, several blasts went off in succession as the Flagrant Roar unleashed several searing beams that knocked the entire party away.

The challenger readied its body to charge towards the team leader when its eyes made contact with the new face. Moving to stand in front of where I was,

“You’ve had your share of tyranny, invader.” He declared. “Khibu Macedi Tumurta of the Li-Shaen responds to your challenge!”

To his words, all of the exhausted members of the fighting team turned to look at him, surprised expressions on their faces.

Khibu, I could see them mouth that name.

His right arm turned to grip the handle on the broadsword attached to his back, the channels that ran through the blade activating in response.

I could almost see the lionhead lifeform move a few steps back in shock, almost as if it knew who this person was.

“You’re the last one, aggressor.” Khibu stated.

---

“Wait a minute!” I called out the burly newcomer as he was just about to charge into battle. “…Khibu, sir.”

“What is it, Human?” His gaze didn’t move away from his opponent, but he stood in place waiting to hear what I had to say.

I thought about what he said regarding the weapons the Li Shaen used in this fight. Whether sold or given, they were how the other races in this game contributed to the Li’s fights.

They were how they wrought their victories against the challengers while honouring the Pact.

Therefore,

“Take this, sir. It’s nothing much, but it should hold out against a couple of attacks.”

I took out a large, plated construct of composite metal out of my inventory and held it in front of me, facing him.

I spent the last hour making it from the few materials I had on me, and the finished product looked more intimidating than I thought.

“A charged shield.” Khibu said. “So you’re a person of the crafting trade as well.”

Looking at the tattered clothes on my body,

“…I see. You have suffered under the Flagrant Roar’s oppression too, haven’t you?”

“It’s no big deal.” I nodded, holding out my arm holding the new riot shield to the side.

The pattern of lines adorned on the reinforced plates glowed yellow, showing that the charge was ready.

With a turn of the handle, the heavy shield disassembled into parts, moving around the grip that remained in my hand.

It was the Nysertium and Guinness’s parts that allowed me to integrate the morphing function into the forging process, guided by the crafting system.

The sections finally came together, rearranging themselves into a completely new shape: A giant battleaxe extending from my arm into the ground, its length exceeding the height of my body.

I swung the axe around with both my hands and pointed it at Khibu, handle-end towards him.

He took it and fiddled with the controls, transforming it back into the emerald-shaped shield form.

Immediately after, he launched himself off the ground with enough force to topple me over, propelling towards the Flagrant Roar with the entire mass of his body.

Everest Bracer!” He laughed, saying out loud the name I gave to the new shield.

Not a second after, the shield in his left arm collided the right fist of the challenger, causing another shockwave to resonate throughout the battlefield.

“What an ambitious name, Human!” He bellowed. “I look forward to seeing it live up to it!”

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zichromasis
Decision point right before the trial ^^ a little obvious this time, but let's see what happens.
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