The necromancer Artur only hesitated for a moment before reacting to Barrett’s charge. He sent a handful of black tendrils to attack, but Barrett merely swung his axe to sever them. The berserk energy he used disrupted them, making it difficult for the necromancer to immediately extend them again. One of the tendrils briefly made contact with Barrett’s arm, but as it pulled at his life force, he pulled back- both metaphysically and physically.
Unlike with Denton, Artur immediately dissolved the tendril as Barrett tried to pull it. However, that allowed Barrett to close in on him. Barrett swung his axe overhead, chopping towards Artur’s skull even as he retreated. The remaining tendrils of blackness gathered together to stop the axe- and their combined might allowed them to avoid being severed. They bent and deformed, but the attack just threw Artur away towards the back of the banquet hall.
“Pfeh.” Artur spit, then sent several of the black tendrils towards random members of the banquet. They screamed uselessly as their bodies shrivelled. “How annoying.”
Reina had been charging around the side to flank Artur, but when Barrett knocked him back she had to readjust her trajectory. Now she had to navigate through the panicking crowd as she tried to move to the back of the hall. Partygoers were fleeing through the kitchens, leaping out the windows, and even running past Barrett and Reina. The two couldn’t be bothered to deal with them at the moment, as they had to focus on a necromancer.
Barrett took a moment to take a deep breath in and out. “Phooo. So, that wasn’t good enough then? I’ll just have to hit harder.” Barrett usually kept his berserk energy contained, both to avoid giving away his true strength and to protect those around him. Even a small amount of berserk energy could be dangerous to the average person. It was also wasteful to let it out. However, if he wanted to muster the maximum possible amount at once he couldn’t waste effort on the small details. The smooth shine of the floor beneath him started fading as tiny imperfections appeared beneath every step.
Out of the corner of his eye, he watched for Reina’s progress. She was partly concealed by the crowd, though only for a few moments longer. At what he felt was the most opportune moment, he charged forward once again. Artur hadn’t been able to damage him yet, so he wasn’t afraid even if Artur did something more threatening.
For each member of the crowd that Artur absorbed, he formed another partial tendril of wriggling blackness. Once people realized what was happening they had fled from him- so he only managed to dessicate a total of ten people. However, he was in an even better state than when the fight had first started, with a few extra tendrils at the ready.
Barrett chopped at the tendrils which had increased in reach. They were now avoiding his counterattacks, making him waste some energy… but he also continued forwards towards Artur. As he reached him, the black tendrils were all busy elsewhere, with none of them ready to defend Artur himself. Barrett swung down his axe right towards Artur’s chest… as all of the tendrils pulled in and attacked Barrett from behind.
Barrett’s axe chopped into Artur’s ribs with the full force of his momentum and weight behind it- even more than would normally be possible from his attack position. However, there was only minimal berserk energy along with that.
As the black tendrils closed in on him from behind, Barrett blasted out a wave of berserk energy towards them. This severed and destroyed most of them, but a handful still grabbed onto Barrett’s arms and legs, with a pair wrapped around his torso. Barrett’s axe had only managed to sink about an inch into Artur’s body- it had been stopped by some enchanted clothing as well as surprisingly strong ribs.
The tendrils started trying to rip Barrett apart, pulling him in every direction as well as trying to rip out his life force. Their pulling power was much stronger than what Denton had been able to manage, and they were arranged so that Barrett couldn’t leverage his maximum force on any of them. However, he still had enough stamina to protect his life force… and his body could hold up on its own.
Artur grinned as he pulled out a sharp dagger, “It’s best not to be careless.”
At the same time, Reina’s sword stuck out the front of his chest- having gone through all the way. Before Barrett and Reina could tell him to take his own advice… Artur grinned. A ball of red and black expanded from Artur’s chest, suffusing over the whole banquet hall in just an instant. In the next instant, it collapsed into something the size of a fist, flying away out of the window.
Artur’s body collapsed, along with everyone else in the area except for Barrett. He leaped forward to catch Reina. Compared to everyone else, who basically only had skin and bones remaining, Reina was in a much better state. However, she was pale and her hair was white, while her skin was wrinkled. Barrett was slightly better off himself, having held onto more of his life force and evenly spreading out what he did lose.
Barrett checked Reina’s vitals. Despite how she looked, her pulse was steady and her breathing even. She returned to consciousness in only a few moments. “Damn… that was… unexpected.” She tried to stand, but her muscles merely trembled as she pushed. She sighed, “I thought he hadn’t noticed me.”
Barrett shook his head and looked at the pile of dust that had once been Artur, “He was prepared to have to escape.” Barrett helped Reina to her feet, and gave her a shoulder to lean on- though her steps barely did anything, and he was basically still carrying her. Barrett reached into his bag and pulled out a small bottle, rolling a little pill into his hand. “Have one.”
Reina took it, though it took her several attempts to swallow. “What is it?”
“Lifeforce recovery pills,” Barrett said. He nearly tripped over a body at his feet, stumbling.
“You should take one too.”
“I… will be fine,” Barrett shook his head. He would be fine. Eventually. He also didn’t have any extras, but he didn’t say that.