Chapter 39

Flecks of concrete showered the nearby wall as Chad vaulted forward, the force of his push off and the sharpness of his new armor combining to tear deep grooves in the floor. He’d gotten no more than a few steps before Angela’s assault renewed, golden weapons arcing toward him from every conceivable angle. They slowed his charge, but they were nowhere near strong enough to halt it. When it had just been a game of evasion, Chad was forced to follow the flow of the battle. Now things were different. Now he didn’t just have to leap out of the way, he also had the option to block. That made a world of difference.

Weapons were sent careening off as he continued his charge, casualties of the powerful blows he delivered from his armored appendages. True, the weaponry was still powerful enough to nick even his ultra-resilient bones, however he was able to patch those minor scratches as he moved. He reached his opponent in a matter of seconds, taking just long enough for her to direct the seven-foot tall shield into his path.

This time, there was no fancy jumping maneuver to redirect his momentum. Instead, he used it as extra force behind a bone-covered punch, meeting the shield with an audible crunch and sending it flying into a nearby wall. Before he could move closer to his opponent, another shield appeared in front of him. Chad readied another blow; however, the shield surprised him by surging forward, striking his chest. It wouldn’t have been enough to topple him, except some unseen object struck him in the back of his knees. The combined forces overcame even his exceptional balance and sent him to the floor with an audible thud. Chad rolled as soon as he struck, the sharp edges of his armor leaving long gouges in the concrete. Within moments he was back on his feet surveying the scene.

The object that had taken him in the knees was another shield, this one sized small enough that a person might actually be able to wield it. The two tower-sized ones were flanking Angela on either side, while the smaller one hovered directly in front of her. He needed to break through them before he’d have a shot at taking her on.

A crunching, unsettling sound filled the air as the bones of Chad’s armor shifted. The edges grew sharper; protrusions jutted out from his knees, knuckles, feet, and shoulders. Each one was conical, shrinking into points so sharp it was hard to tell where they actually ended. From his forearms came long, curved bone blades, each roughly the length and shape of a wakizashi. Their edges looked as though they could cut through the very light of the sun. Which was, in an odd way, not too far off from what Chad was planning on trying.

He met the first shield with a raised knee, sinking its sharp protrusion into the golden surface and using it for leverage to steady himself. In an instant he twisted his torso and arm, bringing the bone blade around and slicing through the light construct with an audible grunt of effort. Strong as Angela’s creations were, Chad was stronger. The two shield halves made a tinkling noise as they clattered to the ground, then vanished in a soft white glow. He immediately jumped left as his feet touched the ground, dodging the blow from the second shield. This left the item tilted downward and directly in front of him. Chad cleaved the second tower shield in two with far less effort than the first. He readied himself to finally engage his target, when a large object crashed into his side, sending him sprawling to the ground.

It was a tower shield. As Chad pulled himself from the floor, he watched as another replacement formed next to Angela. The ricocheted weapons had finally been recovered as well, circling her head like golden vultures, waiting to tear him apart when next he was vulnerable.

“As monstrously powerful as you are, there are two real flaws in your fighting tactics,” said Angela’s voice from the glowing armor. “And right now, one of them is all too clear. You lack the ability to fight at a range.”

Chad smiled, a wicked expression due to the segments of bones jutting out from his face. He’d been wondering if it would come to this, and not only had it, but she’d been so kind as to offer him a perfect lead-in. He’d have to be careful: this technique still gave him some trouble, and it was incredibly dangerous. For the first time in years, Chad felt the rush of true battle surge through him, a feeling he in no way allowed his emotional control power to dampen. This was what it meant to fight, to grow, to learn, and to push yourself, and to risk it all. This was what no classroom would ever be able to duplicate.

A segment of skin opened on each of his forearms, areas the bone armor had purposely left uncovered. Beneath the open skin flowed blood over muscle, clear as day to one looking through the holes. Then, the blood began to deviate, flowing upward and then down again, as through an invisible hill had manifest in the muscle. This magical hill grew upward, thinning out as the blood was pushed outward then pulled back in, until it appeared a long, red tendril was stretching out of each of Chad's arms.

“I only saw a video of my father doing this once,” Chad said, his voice haggard as his concentration focused on maintaining the flow. “He didn’t develop the technique until a year before his death, so it took me a long time to put it together.”

“Really creepy blood flow?” Though her words were flippant, the tone of Angela’s voice made it clear that she was definitely not feeling certain in what to expect.

“Not at all. Did you know that with my power, I don’t actually need my heart to beat? I could just will the blood along, moving it at whatever speed suited me best. That means the speed is entirely at my discretion, and lucky me that I have enough spare resources to rapidly create extra blood on the fly. One last thing: are you familiar with the concept of a water saw?”

It was all about visualizing points, Chad had realized. When the blood hit the air, that was where it immediately accelerated, firing across its course in a fraction of the time it should take. Equally important, however, was the rerouting point on the other end of the arm, turning the blood back around in a loop vein he’d just constructed so it wouldn’t interfere with his normal circulation. A joint vein just before the opening ensured he could add more blood as needed, lengthening the tendril on command. Of course, it was still ridiculously dangerous for anyone, even him, to attempt. That was why he’d decided only to use it on a worthwhile opponent.