Belesis, Booker, and Klen were twenty meters away from Helena. Fatchna was three meters behind her and Phantasm’s member stood eight meters to his left. Helena sucked in her lower lip as she saw Belesis still in her nightgown. She rushed straight here...
A light warm breeze gusted across the clearing, fluttering each blade of grass to the north, along the cliff edge; the large trees surrounding the clearing weaved gently back and forth, leaving the faint sound of rustling leaves. The dome seemed to magnify the very faint light of the sunrise as it started glowing over the edges of the horizon and the stars shown in radiant gleams of twinkling splendor. A blue haze was evident over the forest that Helena hadn’t seen before and a pine smell coated her nostrils.
Belesis seemed calm as she addressed the Yellow Prime. “Is there a reason behind your action, Fatchna?”
The green chair appeared behind Fatchna, and he took the seat. “I have no intentions of giving you a reason. I’m just going to enjoy a show between Hawthorn and you.” Helena’s vision moved to the blonde haired woman. Her name must be Hawthorn. She’s a Colonel; can she really take a General?
“Then you are declaring war with the Purists?” Klen asked, standing ready to dart in any direction.
Fatchna laughed. “No, silly boy. What fun would it be to destroy an entire Faction that couldn’t lay a finger on me? I’m not here to fight you, weaklings. I’m merely killing time before Kara arrives and coordinating with a deal made with Phantasm.” He doesn’t have any problem selling Phantasm out, talking poorly of his methods, but still willing to work with him, despite his earlier statement. He’s certainly strange.
Klen stiffened and started to shift uncomfortably. “Phantasm...”
Belesis’ hand passed in front of Klen, signaling him to stop. “No harm will come to Lady Vandred?” She’s calling me Lady again, just when I thought I was getting her away from the habit … but this isn’t the time for these kinds of thoughts. I need to figure a way out of this. There’s just … no possible way to escape Fatchna’s teleportation. Is waiting for Kara all we can do? That’s pathetic … I’m so pathetic, being a noble, power was natural, but in this world … none of the rules apply.
Fatchna hummed thoughtfully. “I hadn’t planned on it, but it may be a necessity. It would be best if you had an incentive to take this fight seriously. What to do?” The silence stretched for several seconds before he smirked. “I know! For every cut Hawthorn gives you, an exact gash will appear on Kara’s pup. Be it a torn limb or a small scrape. Interesting, isn’t it? Even if you cannot die from such simple wounds, she’ll perish very quickly due to blood loss.”
Klen’s teeth ground as Fatchna spoke his terms and shouted. “That’s ridiculous!” Booker’s hand rested on Klen’s shoulder. “Don’t fret about the little lass. Belesis won’t let a hair on her head be taken.” Klen’s brows knitted together in confusion, but he nodded.
Booker seemed right. Belesis had a concentrated expression on her delicate face as a resolve burned in her reflected eyes. She kicked off her shoes and flexed her bare feet against the grass as Booker and Klen moved to the forest edge. Why are they so adamant about saving me? I just barely entered their Faction … I don’t understand!
Fatchna clapped his hands together with excitement. “Superb. Now, this isn’t like the President’s competitions, you’ll have to figure out what Hawthorn’s ability is, but obviously, she does know you’re a Biokinetic. Every General is famous, after all. Begin!” Both Booker and Klen vanished as Fatchna transported them ten meters away from the machine.
Belesis leaped off the ground and onto the Hoverfly as the ground erupted, revealing tendrils of roots grasping for her feet. She seized the edge of the Hoverfly’s hood and swung inside, her green nightgown blowing up to her waist, showing black spankies. The sound of pressured metal resounded around the clearing as dents appeared in the machine. What’s going on? Why isn’t she going after the main body and what’s attacking her?
Glancing over at Hawthorn, she found her not moving in the least, and her hair seemed to be flowing in a strange manner with the breeze. It was stringier than before and slightly more bunched together. It’s a duplicate. That isn’t Hawthorn; it’s some kind of plant replica. How didn’t I notice her disappear? Does she have a similar ability as Brock?
The cacophony of solid objects striking metal pricked her ears, a dull, hollow sound. The thumps began to pick up, and Helena noticed darting blurs exiting the surrounding woods. What’s she projecting? Is she in the forest?
Roots expelled out of the ground and began wrapping around the Hoverfly, crushing its frame as they constricted. The rhizomes were growing sharp barbs, two centimeters thick and five in length.
Belesis kicked out the Hoverfly’s side paneling, the metal bouncing across the clearing and she darted out. As she passed a rhizome, she spat on it. She now wore a black elastic restraint around her waist, preventing her gown from blowing past her hips. The roots quivered and bulged around the machine, causing a sharp screech. All of the spikes shot out of the rhizomes, piercing the metal plating of the Hoverfly and flying toward Belesis.
Belesis grabbed the metal plating she’d kicked out and leaped back, using it as a shield. The barbs stuck into the steel but didn’t penetrate due to the lack of momentum. She skidded to a stop, her gown billowing around her legs; she tore off part of the fabric, up to her thighs. Letting the scrap carry off with the wind, she spat on the ground.
None of the spikes touched Helena. As they neared, they simply vanished. Fatchna’s protecting me against any of the attacks. She watched dark brownish liquid ooze out of the roots, and the pungent sweet odder of sap filled the clearing. Hawthorn’s manipulating tree roots into pressurizing the pine sap, creating a gun to propel the spikes.
Amusedly watching Belesis dart around the clearing, Fatchna said. “As you have guessed, Hawthorn is a Ligneokinetic, wood manipulation.” He maneuvered us into an area that’s surrounded by trees, giving Hawthorn the upper hand since Belesis is a close-range fighter. She’s at a complete disadvantage.
Belesis jumped to the cliff, flying fifteen meters into the air, she slammed against its rough face, her fingers digging into the stone. Just as she left the ground, roots expelled from the earth, overgrown rhizome hairs grasping the air.
As they appeared, an explosion broke across the soil, leaving a high-pitched resonance hanging in the air. Dirt ejected in all directions as dark smoke lifted into the air. Helena covered her ears too late, the ringing still echoing in her head. She created some kind of explosive in a liquid form, then spit it where the roots would exit, causing friction? Is it Nitroglycerin? It’s reactive enough to be.
Another sharp explosion sounded at the Hoverfly. The root had been blown apart, and black scorch marks shown all over the metal through the smoke’s exit. Helena watched in shock as a light appeared on the roots near the Hoverfly. It’s on fire. Sparks started dancing around the resin as it flared and a strong burning smell started to carry across the breeze. The roots quickly pulled back into the ground, smothering the flames.
She can’t win like this; Nitroglycerin is too reactive to act as a timed trap. Is she buying time? Belesis’ eyes scanned the ground for a second before she released her grip on the wall, sliding down its surface.
Roots expelled below her, breaking apart a portion of the rock base. Belesis kicked off the side when she found purchase, flying over the ground. Twisting once and flipping, she slid across the ground. Jumping up again, she landed on a small boulder that jutted out of the ground. Her fist struck the rock’s surface, and a portion of it broke into three pieces. Grabbing a chunk the size of a man, she lifted it over her head and threw it in the direction of Hawthorn’s dummy. Picking up a jagged piece of shattered rock from the ground, she raced toward the tumbling rock. Darting to the left as root hairs broke through the soil, trying to grab her.
The chunk struck the wood creation and smashed through it, landing on the ground, it slid. Causing clumps of dirt to expel around it and expose a hole. Of course, she was trying to find Hawthorn’s access point, and she’s feeling the vibrations in the ground with her bare feet. She is a Biokinetic; she has enhanced senses.
Rhizomes started to link the opening together, but Belesis arrived too quickly and dropped down the cavity. The roots closed over the entrance, sealing off escape. Helena’s breath was held as she studied the grass. She ran right into Hawthorn’s environment. Does she have a plan?
Helena winced, feeling a sting at her cheek and left calf. Skimming her fingers over the spot on her face, she found a trickle of blood clinging to her finger. She glanced at Fatchna. He’s keeping true to his word, but how does he know what happens to Belesis underground? Can he perceive everything within a specific range? I have no clue how his ability works...
Fatchna had a wide smile evident as he studied the soil in the center of the two groups. Klen had a pale face with tension in his posture. Booker was calm and collected, but his eyes were closed. He’d removed his shoes and held his toes still against the grass. Is he following the battle through the vibrations in the ground? Echolocation?
Fatchna’s enthralled voice spoke in quick syllables. “Belesis is good. I’m thrilled that she’s doing this well against a Colonel in her key environment.” There’s no way I could fight Hawthorn, but even at a severe disadvantage, Belesis is still holding her own.
The ground exploded in a fountain of dirt as roots surfaced and two figures shot through the shower. Hawthorn was surrounded by dark hardwood roots, each having a multitude of razor-sharp barbs. However, three roots were concaved. How is Belesis on the offensive? She’s pushed Hawthorn out of her hiding place and damaged her defensive shell. All Belesis needs is a single touch, and it’s over. A smile lit Helena’s lips. Why was I worried in the first place, Belesis is a General … in a structure of power, she far outranks Hawthorn.
A taproot sprung out of the ground slick with sap. Hawthorn landed on it and slid across its surface as it moved toward the forest. Belesis rushed to the rock she’d split earlier and hurled the largest piece at the roots carrying Hawthorn. Jumping after it, she followed the slab. The rock sailed through the air; its jagged end landed on the roots. Belesis came down on the stone with crushing force. The taproot cracked with a section of the boulder, and the root snapped as the weight cut it, throwing Hawthorn off and rolling across the ground.
Bracing herself, Belesis raced off her solid support, following her target. The thorns protruding from Hawthorn’s armor were cast out. Darting back and forth, Belesis dodged every spear. From the empty cavities of Hawthorn’s armor fired a spray of sap as the wood constricted, shriveling.
Belesis leaped into the air to not get covered with sap, but rhizomes shot out of the ground and root hairs extended to grab her. Breaking the hair with force and moving quicker than the rhizomes, she latched onto one and slid down its slick stem. A large trunk shot up around Hawthorn. Branches and leaves sprouted around her, obscuring Belesis’ vision.
Using a large root as support, she drove off and kicked into the branches, disappearing from Helena’s sight. Every leaf shuddered, and the entire truck of the tree cracked at the base. With the extra momentum, Belesis slid across the grassy earth as the tree tumbled to the ground. “Nice, now—watch out!” Klen shouted, taking a single step forward.
Two roots shot out and wrapped around Belesis’ feet, halting her progress. She dropped to the ground; face first as what remained of her gown flew up around her waist. She couldn’t find enough perches against the ground to escape; she’s caught! More roots blasted out and wrapped around her body, pinning her to the ground. Even if she is extremely strong, she can’t escape from that position. Is it over for both of us?
Not a single centimeter of her skin was showing under the confinement; only her head was free. Klen had his fists clenched in front of him as he bounced. “Get out of it, Belesis!”
Fatchna clapped emphatically. “That was a brilliant fight and well played! Isn’t your handle, Pernicious Antivenin? I enjoy that name, much more than Belesis, a weak name. Higher level struggles are so much more interesting to watch, but I expected a bit more fight out of you!”
Face down in the dirt, Belesis laughed. She didn’t sound strained in the least. “You of all people should realize that espers of my rank don’t fall so easily. Though, she can counter.” Helena gasped as the roots holding Belesis started wilting and decaying before her eyes. Belesis moved swift as a viper, rising to her arms and feet, she launched toward Hawthorn’s shocked complexion. Klen shot a fist into the air. “You’ve got her!”
A second before her hand reached Hawthorn’s face, she vanished. Spinning around, Helena found Hawthorn standing next to Fatchna, her face ashen.
Turning back, she discovered Belesis picking herself off the ground and rearranging her attire. There were several tears in the clothing, but it still kept its modesty, and her undergarments were still intact.
Sighing, Belesis asked. “So—I assume the fight is over with your interference? Is it fair to put Lady Vandred’s and my life on the thread, while keeping her relatively safe?”
Fatchna’s laugh was low. “I never said it was over. Kara still has some time to arrive, and I need something to entertain me.”
Belesis didn’t answer as her eyes flipped to Helena and centered on the cuts. Her jaw locking and an expression of anger flashed across her features. Why’s she so irate about a few simple cuts? It was extraordinary that she accomplished what she did with so little damage.
Hawthorn was breathing with difficulty as she stood next to Fatchna. Her wooden frame was completely decayed. She started to create a new one; however, it also started to deteriorate.
“Cheap!” Klen exclaimed.
Ignoring Klen, Fatchna expectantly asked. “Tell me, how did you accomplish your victory … I have an overall idea, but I’d like a detailed explanation.” I’m putting her in the position to force a response. She has to tell Fatchna how she did it, giving Hawthorn more information on how to counter her and reveal her secrets. What an underhanded method for a Prime to use.
Klen was in an uproar. “What! Why should she explain her tactics? That gives that woman even more of an advantage!” He flinched as Fatchna glared his way.
Drawing out her breath, Belesis glanced her way and reluctantly explained. “When I first realized Hawthorn was a Ligneokinetic and learning about the sap I decided upon a specific plan. However, first I needed to buy time to gather the proper elements, it was somewhat difficult … after gathering the proper materials, I harvested a parasitic worm known as Bursaphelenchus xylophilus. They are handy to wipe out a forest of coniferous trees, though normally take a while to work their process.” Helena saw Hawthorn’s face drain of color at the name.
A gleam appeared in Fatchna’s eyes. “You know this worm?”
“Yes, it’s also called pinewood nematode or pine wilt nematode. Though, it normally takes weeks to kill a tree.”
“You accelerated their mitosis to accommodate a more ferocious appetite!” Fatchna exclaimed in delight.
Helena now noticed growing creatures crawling around the roots on the ground. Belesis’ much stronger than I thought. To be able to do this at such a wide scale. The amount of knowledge she’d have to have...
Fatchna burst out laughing. “Brock will be furious when he comes back to this resort and finds it completely barren. Discovering gigantic carcasses of worms or maybe their mutation will be enough to create a brand new species that will overrun the continent, fascinating.”
Belesis shook his head, eyes not leaving Fatchna. “No, they can’t exceed a defined size before dying, and they only last for a few minutes without food. However, there is the possibility they can further mutate.”
“You’ve taken that much into account. Splendid, absolutely splendid! You’ve completely locked Hawthorn out of this area, but I want another match, so we’ll relocate. It did fascinate me that you could make a virus carried by insects to ravage your enemies, but those can’t be targeted. You’d hurt the ones you love.”
Klen squirmed as he examined a trunk near him. Vertigo returned and her environment altered. They now stood beside a lake with the forest around them. Two streams emptied into a body of water with a single exit. Small boulders and red maples surrounded them. The highest point is the trees, leaving Belesis completely open without a way to defend against Hawthorn’s initial attacks. Fatchna wants to see her even more pressed.
“Now let the fight, begin!” Fatchna yelled. Hawthorn suddenly collapsed to her knees holding her head as she screamed. Fatchna looked completely lost. “What’s the matter, Hawthorn?”
“I see, it’s kicked in; it’s about time.” Belesis huffed with a repulsed expression and a low tone. What’s she disgusted about, the slow reaction time or the effect?
“What did you do and when?” Fatchna sounded eager for the explanation as Phantasm’s Colonel writhed on the ground digging at her skull.
Belesis glanced at Hawthorn with sad eyes. “A short distance air born virus that I spread in her tunnel, it causes a mass of abnormal cell growth in the brain. In the end, it has similar effects to Cluster Headaches. One of the worst conditions an esper can be diagnosed with, excruciatingly painful.”
Fatchna’s smile faltered. “Fascinating, but still conditions from the last match are to be removed. Get rid of it so you may continue the fight and don’t implant anything else or the Pup will lose a limb.” Helena tensed.
“That’s completely unfair. She won!” Klen complained, throwing up his hands in exasperation.
Belesis slowly walked to Hawthorn and placed a hand on her forehead. Her face held no hatred, but remorse. The gouges Hawthorn had made with her own fingers started to heal. I see … Belesis doesn’t like using her ability like this. She really is kind … too kind.
Stepping away, she walked back to her previous spot and waited for Hawthorn to get to her feet. Hawthorn was sweating profusely and shook violently, but soon took hold of herself.
Fatchna clapped his hands. “Right. Now—begin!”