He was falling.
He had already reached terminal velocity. It didn’t bother him much. At his level, he could Regenerate that much damage and it wouldn’t even make any difference.
He was more bothered by the fact he couldn’t fly. An item that could teleport him, against his will, to a no flight zone would be terribly expensive, even if it was used by someone whose level was equal to his. To be used by someone weaker, the Republic must have spent a fortune. And a lot of Principality too. But he’d lose more, were he to fail here.
Thus he was even more bothered by the possibility of said failure. were he to die, they would be able to easily seize his kingdom. King Josef Mar was a very strong king, but much of his strength relied on the fact that his army of golems was second to none –maybe the self proclaimed unequalled magician of the Dynasty could match it, but the dynasty was too far away from him for this to be an issue. But an army of golems would stop operating without his instructions, leaving his kingdom ripe for the taking. The lack of high level fighters apart from him and his golems really came back to bite him. And by seizing the kingdom, they could recoup most of the losses this artifact cost them. Such an artifact would be a ridiculously foolish expense at almost any other scenario. Ironic, as it looked like a coin. But it was an ingenious exploit against his kingdom.
But he was bothered the most by the fact that he was currently facing the Black Knight. An opponent like that would be a very beatable problem under normal circumstances. Sure, it would not necessarily be easy or painless, but his victory would be a foregone conclusion. Heck, if he had his golems, he could take on all of the Republic’s knights. But he didn’t have his golems. Even without his golems, he reckoned that, under normal circumstances, he could beat, one on one, any of the Republic’s knights for sure , except maybe for the Red one. But they weren’t fighting on normal circumstances. They were fighting in a no flight zone.
And the Black Knight could teleport.
That meant that he fought an opponent that could move 3 dimensionally on a field where he could barely move 2 dimensionally.
After all… even moving 2 dimensionally was a chore when you were falling.
But even though he must have been stabbed 50 times by now, and even slashed in half 5 times, he was still confident in his victory. He was much more powerful than the Black Knight, so no matter how grievous his injuries, his Regeneration was barely exhausted by his enemy’s Aura.
By contrast, his Aura was strong enough to cause some very grave damage to the Black Knight’s regeneration. He reckoned 3 hits areas would be enough to kill his enemy. Maybe less. But he couldn’t even land 1 hit. He could barely parry. That was for a simple reason.
It was because… he was falling.
And for that reason, this was a battle he could not win until he reached the ground.
So he focused on defence. He could, even under these circumstances, parry 2 out of 3 hits with his umbrella. His umbrellamanship was far from being sloppy, after all, and he was at least 50 levels stronger than the Black knight, which meant that, by merit of his aura, he was faster as well. If only he had 1 more level, maybe this battle would be very different.
1 of said 3 hits, however, would still hit him. His situation was precarious, and the Black knight knew how to capitalize on weakness very well. His skills and his powers were not enough to erase his disadvantage, they could only lessen it.
This was one of these 1 in 3 hits. It chopped his hand clear off. But the issue didn’t end there. A chopped off hand meant a significant weakness, for the fractions of a second it took him to regenerate it. Worse, it was his umbrella hand, which meant another fraction of a second for him to retrieve his umbrella.
Apparently, that was the opening the Black Knight was waiting for. A sure hit. But the Black knight didn’t strike out with the artifact swordfish that was so famous as the weapon the Knights of the Republic used. No, for this attack on a certain opening, a long needle was used instead.
A long needle containing 8 Thousand Woes poison. One of the few poisons that was still relevant, at Josef’s level, and certainly one strong enough to turn the tide of the battle. Sure, it wouldn’t kill him, but it would weaken him off considerably. And the needle was sharp enough to pierce even artifact armour. Such a needle, he mused, must have been a treasure of the Republic, and the poison wouldn’t exactly be cheap. They were truly going all out- perhaps even if they won they’d lose more than they earned. But he wasn’t in a position to be happy about this.
Others would hesitate, if only for what qualified as a “split second” at their level, but Josef considered parrying the needle more important that what most people would normally do almost instinctually: catch their weapon. So he parried the needle with his gauntlet, aiming to disarm the Black Knight as well. This would be a risky move against an opponent of equal level, but against the Black Knight it was guaranteed success. At least, when the needle was used- he would be never fast enough to do the same to the swordfish, a weapon his opponent has mastered.
Now the needle was now falling.
It was impossible for Josef to see the Black Knights expression. A helmet would do that. But he suspected that the outcome was neither unplanned not unexpected. After all, the lack of an umbrella would be a significant handicap to his parrying abilities. Using an expensive weapon like that was indeed a smart stratagem: after all, the needle could be retrieved and used later, and being weaponless was also a huge disadvantage. And that was the second best scenario, the scenario that required him to be smart enough to parry the poison, instead of being hit by it and suffering a tremendous disadvantage.
“Won’t you teleport to get your needle?” Josef Mar knew that the Black Knight couldn’t give him even the slightest bit of time to catch his breath, for if he did, he’d have time to fix his defensive posture, meaning that, even without his umbrella, his defensive capabilities would skyrocket and he would likely reach the ground safely.
“No”. It was apparent that the Black Knight knew that too.
And, although tactically speaking , this was the right choice, it was the choice that ultimately would allow Josef Mar to kill the Black Knight in the near future.
So Josef Mar continued to fall, and to try to use his aura to parry, and the Black Knight continued to attack him. Now it wasn’t 1 in 3 hits that landed on Josef, it was 2 in 5. And it took a serious toll on him. But his Regeneration was supreme.
He managed to barely survive until the point where he stopped falling, and hit the ground.
The impact didn’t matter much. He would use his Aura to cushion himself, but he was focusing it entirely on parrying the person who was trying to kill him. After all, the ground had no Aura, so it wouldn’t harm his Regeneration much.
For sure, being splattered on the ground for a few fractions of a second gave an opening he could barely afford in this battle, but not focusing the entirety of his Aura to the Black Knight would be something Josef could not afford at all.
So he took one more hit before regenerating and getting up, albeit one vastly weakened by his own Aura. Small deal, he could now move more freely, and didn’t need to pay as much attention below. Parrying would be much easier.
Indeed, counterattacking was much easier. Easier than he thought.
It seemed the easy target his earlier predicament had turned Josef into had made the Black Knight grow complacent. So a punch came unexpectedly. And said punch was strong enough to push the Black Knight backwards, faster than she could think “teleportation”.
And indeed, before having the chance to do anything, the Black Knight had fallen on her own needle, the weapon that now sealed the Republic’s loss. Had Aura been channelled into the right spot of the black armour that gave the knight a name, the currently ownerless needle would pierce neither armour nor skin. But if “teleportation” was not a thought she could make in such a short time, rearranging one’s Aura took equally long.
But Josef didn’t take it in complacency: he knew that the Republic had antidote, so he moved in to finish off the knight, whose death was now certain, before extrication from the needle was made possible.
They both knew that the worst thing that happened to the Black Knight was the piercing of the armour: after all, it was the armour that enabled teleportation, and while Regeneration could be used to fix it too, as long as the needle was lodged in, it could not be done.
So Josef was instantly next to the Black Knight, ready to give the finishing hit.
But… the Black knight did something unexpected. Instead of extricating, she pushed body and armour further in the needle, and, grabbing Jose by the hair, she pulled him to get stabbed by the needle too.
Josef could resist this, had he expected it, but he didn’t, so he lost his balance and got pierced by the needle, getting infected by the poison.
Then, before extricating herself, the Black Knight decapitated Josef with her Swordfish, focusing almost all her Aura on that hit.
This was a killing blow for Josef, who was already gravely beaten down, wounded, weakened and poisoned. The Black Knight could easily push his dead body aside, extricate herself from the needle and teleport to the Republic to get the antidote.
Wait a minute.
What did just happen?