A Piece in the Game of Gods part 33

Champions gathered in the middle of the warehouse while the Cleaner stood in front of us. This was a great deal like the gathering and briefing period before every contest, though of course, it wasn’t. For one thing, there were fewer of us than there usually was, and for another, the stakes were much higher.

Each and every one of us had prepared for the upcoming fight in our own way. Don had spent a couple hours sitting on the floor, calmly meditating. Mary, on the other hand, had spent the same time throwing ice attacks against targets to get herself ‘warmed up’, as ironic as that was.

My own preparations were a little more practical, and of more direct benefit, in my opinion. I’d thrown up a series of shield walls, then had several champions attack them with everything they had. And while that might seem to be wasting my time, or as though I was simply doing the same thing Mary was, the truth was that I was charging the damage buff on my spear. The damage buff bar was now full, and my spear was holding as much extra damage as it could store. That meant, the next time I attacked someone with it, I was going to have a very nice burst of extra damage.

“I’m worried,” Matt quietly admitted from beside me.

“Me too,” Teri said.

I nodded at that since I understood completely. I was terrified, especially when I thought of facing Pfath again. Or Arakthiel. Dying was bad enough, but to be burned to death again…or having my very soul destroyed. Both of those prospects were absolutely terrifying. I’ve literally had nightmares about both of those things happening.

There was a time, not that long ago, when I would have charged into danger without thought or hesitation. Those days were behind me now. I was still willing to fight do whatever I needed to, but now, I was a lot more aware of the risks and consequences.

“You don’t have to come,” I told my friends. “You aren’t champions, so those bastards probably won’t care about you… I won’t blame you if you back out…”

Matt chuckled at that and gave me a forced smile. “Actually, I was worried about what Mom and Dad are going to say about all this…”

“Yeah,” Teri added. “They’re going to be pissed about us disappearing. Of course, I’ll just blame it all on Matt…”

“Bite me,” he responded.

The truth was, their parents would have every right to be worried, but I didn’t think that they’d be much of a problem. After all, the Coordinator and Referee might be gone, but the Cleaner was still around, and his whole job had been to take care of things like this. When everything was done and over, he’d probably show up and erase or alter a few select memories, and everything would be back to normal. At least, I hoped that was how it all worked out.

“At least Lauren isn’t caught up in this,” Cassandra said with a scowl. “She’ll be safe at home.”

“Yeah,” I said as I nodded in agreement. At least Lauren wasn’t involved in all this.

It was at this point that the Cleaner began to speak. “Remember,” he called out loud enough for everyone to hear. “We have the advantage of surprise and must make full use of it. As soon as you arrive, you must strike the enemy gods as hard and fast as you can. If we are lucky, we may be able to kill them before they have a chance to properly defend themselves or retaliate. If things turn against us, I will immediately pull everyone out of there.”

“That sounds good to me,” Axe Guy exclaimed. “Let’s get this show on the road…”

Portals began opening up in front of us and my new allies began running through. Cassandra grabbed me and gave me a passionate kiss, one that was enough to make my toes curl and my other parts…respond.

“I’m not complaining or anything,” I told Cassandra, “but I’m not sure this is the right time…”

“This is the perfect time,” she responded with a smirk. “I get a buff whenever I kiss someone I have romantic feelings for.”

I wasn’t sure if Cassandra was joking or not, and before I could even respond, she ran through one of the portals. A moment later, I followed, along with Matt and Teri.

I found myself in another warehouse, very much like the one I’d just left. However, the most immediate difference I noticed, was the fact that there were stone and metal cubes of various sizes, stacked up and scattered around the place. It only took me a second to realize that this was one of the warehouses from the first contest I’d competed in.

“Déjà vu,” Teri gasped from beside me.

The three gods, Arakthiel, Pfath, and Kr’aethar, were all standing motionless in the middle of the warehouse, almost as though they were mannequins or statues. The lights were on, but nobody was home...almost as if they weren’t really there. And that was it, I realized. They weren’t all there. The gods were mostly elsewhere, and instead of giving those bodies back to their champions, they’d just left them on pause.

For a brief moment, I thought that this was going to be easy, that we’d be able to take down Robe, March, and Nadine’s bodies before their patrons even realized we were there. However, that hope only lasted for a couple seconds before it was dashed. The three gods suddenly came to life again and began to fight.

“Look out,” I cried, throwing shields on Matt and Teri, and then forming a shield wall in front of me.

Cassandra appeared at my side and used my shield as cover while shooting around the side. Several arrows struck Pfath, though they immediately caught fire and burned away. When she shot at Arakthiel, he was able to dodge the arrows entirely.

Everyone rushed in to target one of the gods, though it wasn’t easy to actually hurt them. Kr’aethar was extremely tough, and I watched as Don smashed a mace into his face, and he just shrugged it off. Arakthiel had amazing reflexes and was able to dodge nearly everything that was strong at him. And Pfath, she was covered with an aura of flames that simply made it difficult to get too close.

Red Coat Randal charged at Arakthiel while wielding a sword and shield, both of which were actually made of bone. A single slash of Arakthiel’s scythe cut the sword in half, along with the top half of the shield. Randal immediately switched over and began lashing at the god with several whips that appeared to be made of blood. Tendrils of blood began to wrap around the god, trying to tie him in place.

While Randal was keeping Arakthiel’s attention on him, Alejandra leapt at the god from behind and smashed him with her massive hammer. As far as I was concerned, Alejandra should have been the one tanking, because she was the one with the armor and abilities to take that kind of punishment, but I wouldn’t argue with anything that worked. Arakthiel went down in a smear of shattered bones, but a moment later, he simply got back up again, acting as though the hammer blow had never even happened.

Spear Chick and Axe Guy were facing off against Kr’aethar, who just shrugged off all their attacks. Marissa had a dozen of her illusions out and were surrounding the god, but he seemed to see right through all of them and came at the real Marissa. Marissa screamed and Axe Guy jumped in front of her, taking a powerful blow from Kr’aethar’s greatsword. The blade sliced through Axe Guy’s axe and into his arm.

“Crap,” I exclaimed, hitting Axe Guy with two heals in a row. I would have done more if I’d been close enough. As it was, I had to throw another shield on Teri, along with a shield wall to protect myself.

I wanted to charge right in but knew that this would be a waste of my abilities. Instead, I stood back and did everything I could to protect my friends and allies. I threw out shields and heals almost as fast as I could, all while hoping that my mana would hold out long enough. My mana pool and mana recovery had both increased a great deal since I’d joined this game, but they still had limits, and this fight was already pushing them to that.

Then I suddenly saw an opportunity. Pfath was fighting Don and had her back to me. I didn’t hesitate to throw my spear at her as hard as I could. The fact that she was using Nadine’s body only made it more satisfying. My spear struck her in the middle of the back, and all of the damage that had been stored within, was released in one powerful burst. Pfath was literally blown in two.

“Holy shit,” Cassandra exclaimed. “You just fucked her day up good…”

“Good aim,” Mary called out with a laugh.

Becky, who was floating overhead and firing blasts of energy from her staff, cheerfully called out, “One down, two do go…”

For a couple brief seconds, I stood there with a smirk, feeling as though I was on top of the world. However, that only lasted until I saw Pfath’s body being pulled back together and being reformed. In mere seconds, Nadine’s body was once again whole and covered with flames.

“Aw, crap,” I blurted out in frustration.

That had been my most powerful…and only real attack, and all it had done was slow Pfath down for a few seconds. Of course, the gods could all rez their champions, which was exactly what they were doing…while ignoring all the rules and limits that normally applied.

“Fuck,” Cassandra spat out.

“I didn’t even get any points from that,” I said, which was definitely unfair. Pfath might not have stayed down, but I felt that I should have at least gotten some credit for putting her down in the first place.

It was at this point that I noticed something from the corner or my eye. When I turned for a better look, I saw Harker on the other side of the warehouse, standing on top one of the cubes and watching the fight. A couple seconds later, I suddenly remembered that she hadn’t come with us…and she was wearing her armor.

“CRAP!” I exclaimed in sudden realization. “IT’S A TRAP! HARKER SET US UP!”

Since Harker had been spotted, she stopped holding back and rushed forward, sending out a small tornado from her hands. It rushed into the mass of chaos, catching Becky, Mary, and Randal, and sending all of them flying off in random directions. Then she fired a powerful blast of wind right at me, though I blocked it with a shield wall.

“How did you fake losing your patron?” I demanded. Cassandra was really good at telling when people lied, and she hadn’t caught it.

“Br’ieze left me and took all my abilities,” Harker answered, sending another blast of wind at me. “Then an hour ago, she took me back as her champion…”

“I thought you were afraid she was going to turn you into a meat puppet,” I blurted out, gesturing towards her allies.

“Br’ieze promised that she wouldn’t do that,” Harker said, looking a bit smug. “She doesn’t want my body. She wants to come here in her own body…”

Teri stepped forward while swinging her baseball bat and began walking towards Harker. The other champion gestured at Teri, and suddenly, Teri began grabbing her throat in the universal sign that she was choking. I immediately summoned Teri back to my side, where she let out another gasp, this one of relief.

“I couldn’t breathe,” Teri said.

“She has a couple new tricks up her sleeve,” I said, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. I wasn’t the only one who’d been gaining new abilities and getting stronger.

“You’re going to die,” Harker stated, giving me a look of pity. “All of you are. For good. I’m sorry about that, but it’s the only way…”

A howl of pain came from behind me and I glanced back, only to see Don standing there with a glowing sword blade emerging from his chest. Kr’aethar stood behind Don and was still impaling him. Red energy swirled around the blade and seemed to tear up Don’s body and armor.

“NO!” I cried out in horror.

I hit Don with several heals in a row, desperately trying to keep him alive. My heals had no effect at all. I was too late. Kr’aethar pulled back his blade, letting Don’s lifeless body collapse to the ground.

A second later, Arakthiel leapt at Mary, hitting her with a burst of purple energy that I immediately recognized as the soul killer attack. Mary collapsed to the ground, her body still alive, though it was now an empty husk.

“You’re all going to die,” Harker announced again. “You can’t beat gods…”

Harker raised her hands to launch another attack, then suddenly let out a strange gurgle before collapsing to the ground. Matt was standing behind her, holding two bloody knives in his hands.

YOU HAVE SUCCESSFULLY DEFEATED AN OPPOSING CHAMPION.

REWARD: +20 MANA POOL, +20 MANA RECOVERY, +20 HEALTH, AND +20 REGENERATION. YOUR COMPANIONS GAIN +20 HEALTH AND +20 REGENERATION.

“Pawned you, bitch,” Matt said grimly. “That’s for trying to kill my sister.”

“WE NEED TO RETREAT,” I called out.

In spite of being a total bitch, Harker had been right about one thing. We couldn’t beat these gods. We could take them down, with a lot of effort, but the problem was they wouldn’t stay down. They just got right back up and acted as though nothing had happened. As long as they could do that, and keep killing us off one at a time, there was no way we could win.

“ARAKTHIEL!” a new voice called out. It was a cold, hard voice, and it was coming from Mary.

Mary stood back up, revealing that ice crystals were forming all over her body and armor. More ice spread out along the ground around her. A sense of cold power now radiated from Mary, or at least, from the being that now occupied her body.

“YOU WILL PAY FOR WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO MY CHAMPION,” Mary’s patron exclaimed.

Ice spread out from this newly arrived god, then exploded outward like icicle shrapnel which hit several champions. She leapt at Arakthiel, sending out more freezing cold and explosions of ice. It was obvious that she didn’t care who got hurt in the process, as long as she could get Arakthiel.

“We need to withdraw while we can,” the Cleaner announced as several of his portals began to appear near or even beneath the various champions.

“At last,” Pfath announced, turning to stare at the Cleaner with a cruel smile. “The champion of Emnyle, Arbiter and goddess of memory and gates… We’ve been waiting for you to show yourself, mortal…”

“You were waiting for me,” the Cleaner gasped in realization.

Marissa and an injured Axe Guy vanished as a portal appeared beneath them. Becky, the magical girl, fired a blast of golden energy and sparkles from her staff, hitting Pfath right in the face, before she dove through a portal and vanished too. Randal was sprawled out on the ground, and he wasn’t moving. I didn’t know if he was dead or alive, but Alejandra grabbed him, tossed him over her shoulder, and jumped through a portal.

Kr’aethar drove his sword blade into the ground and there was a flash of red energy which exploded outwards, sending the Cleaner flying back. All the portals began flickering.

Pfath held out her hands and sent out a blast of fire. Matt grabbed Teri and pulled both of them into the nearest portal, right before it closed and vanished. That left Cassandra and I as the only remaining champions, besides the Cleaner himself.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” Cassandra said.

“Good idea,” I agreed, rushing with her towards the nearest portal, which was starting to flicker.

Suddenly, the wind began to pick up and I had a horrible sinking feeling. I glanced over to where Harker’s body had been, and it was now floating in the air with a tornado swirling around it.

“So much for Br’ieze’s promise to Harker,” I said with a grimace.

Another god had just entered our world. This whole situation kept escalating more and more. I couldn’t help but remembering what Maelyne had said would happen when her kind fought each other, and unfortunately, I was already getting a glimpse of it.

“Can this get any more insane?” Cassandra demanded.

At those words, a massive blast of fire collided with a burst if frigid air and ice, resulting in an explosion of steam. I didn’t wait to see if that could get any worse, and immediately shoved Cassandra through the waiting portal. Before I could get through it myself, a powerful wind threw me aside. I hit the ground hard, and before I could return to my feet, the last portal vanished.

“Not again,” I gasped in frustration. “Why does this crap keep happening to me?”

I might have asked if the gods hated me for some reason, except that I already knew for a fact that a couple of them did. That really was depressing to think about, so I tried not to.

I looked around the warehouse, gulping in fear. The very air had come alive and turned hostile. Powerful winds tore through the space, threatening to knock me over blow me away. However, that was only the start of it. Purple energy, waves of flame, and vortexes of ice crystals swirled through it all, creating a storm cloud that was bursting with raw power.

“Crap,” I whispered, realizing just how dangerous it was to even be inside the warehouse. The entire place had become a lethal deathtrap for anyone who was mortal…like myself. I formed a shield wall between me and the gods, then looked around for a way out. “Not good…”

If this was what five gods could do while limited by human bodies, I did NOT want to see what would happen if all the gods fought in their own bodies. Once again, Maelyne’s warnings came to mind, and for the first time, I understood just how easily a war among them could destroy the world.

At this point, the five gods were fighting amongst themselves, four against one. They didn’t even seem to be aware that I was still there, and for that, I was grateful.

Explosions of energy rippled through the air, and then one of them hit me, tearing right through my shield wall. A surge of intense agony tore through my body, ripping me apart. I screamed out, desperately trying to form another shield, but it was too late and darkness claimed me once again.



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