Polymath Redux Annex
Chapter 37 – Mission: Obtain the Crystal Flower from the Manatite Forest (7)
A familiar scene played before Mordred. It was as though he was watching a replay of what he had done before. Atop of the defeated ‘boss’ monster stood a creature of shadows. Although calling it ‘shadows’ may have been a little misguided. An entirely blackened being made of what could be described only as ‘blank space’- an absence of light, like black hole. Humanoid in shape, it hunched over with its arms hanging before it. It tilted its head quizzically to one side. Hollow and ghastly oval eyes stared blankly and similar hollow mouth smiled and stretched ear to ear, beyond the distance of what was capable of normal mouths.
Seeing its sadistic and taunting smile, Mordred reflexively frowned back. That elated and blank expression, its arrogant demeanour. It was precisely because it was so familiar to what he would’ve done that it ticked him off, like it was infringing upon his trademarked posturing.
“I’m guessing that this isn’t one of those rare situations where we’ve actually stumbled upon some super, secret boss,” Mordred commented in jest. Both he and his elven guide understood that it was most likely the doing of this irregular shadow monster which caused the strange phenomenon across the Labyrinth. He felt an instant familiarity to this monster. When he had been ‘trapped’ on the second floor and was assaulted by those shadow monsters; ‘the same kind of existence,’ he confirmed to himself.
Cecilia shook her head without taking an eye off the monster. “Tsk, I don’t know. I’ve never even seen this thing before.”
Perhaps it had finished analysing its prey, but the shadow monster began to move. Erratic in its stance and posture. It dragged out the black sword it had used to instantly slay the Forest Golem. Yet, it was not that it pulled it out, rather it snapped off the hilt from the blade. The blade, still lodged within the Golem, dissipated, only to reassemble itself on the hilt. The monster pointed its blade towards the two.
“It seems to be picking a fight.”
“Tch, you think?” Cecilia replied sarcastically. She drew her bow and loaded and arrow against the string. In response, the shadow stepped down from its throne made of Golem corpse and dragged its body forward with that same uncanny movement. Its sword scratched against the stone floor with a screech with every step it took closer.
Cecilia held up her bow and winded the arrow. Without warning, the shadow dashed head first towards her. Its footsteps were non-existent and the only sound that could be heard were the metallic scratches of its sword against the floor as it ran. She must’ve panicked, Cecilia released the bowstring without proper aim, yet even then it flew straight at the shadow monster’s head- a true testament to her skill etched into her very muscles.
For a moment, the air grew tense. The missile flew… a ‘direct’ hit. Or so that would’ve been the case, but reality was much more different. The arrow simply flew straight through its head and continued to fly out the other side, almost as though it had hit nothing but air. “Cecilia!” Mordred shouted to refresh her consciousness.
That blank stare of disbelief in her eyes disappeared as she remembered to move her body a few inches to the left. As though it didn’t have proper training- or common sense- the monster flailed its sword in an upwards arc with one hand. That blackened sword of shadows mere millimetres away from cleaving her face open. It sliced a few stray strands of hair but nothing fatal. The monster didn’t cease its attack and simply let the momentum continue until it had hit a wall.
An entire section of the fort’s defensive wall had been decimated and burst down. Stray bricks and debris flew all into the forest as it left behind a gaping hole and clouds of dust. When the dust cleared the monster stood still as it gazed back at the destruction it itself had caused. It turned its head back, almost in a complete one-eighty as it locked one of its hollowed white eyes upon Cecilia.
“Holy shit… if that had actually hit me…” Cecilia’s eyes widened. She shuddered as she took a step back and pulled out another arrow from the quiver. This time the tip of the arrow fizzled and sparked with particles of red dust. She initiated the attack without provocation. She drew black her bowstring and shot the arrow straight for the monster one more time.
Of course, it was unlikely that she had forgotten the ineffectual nature of her first attack. ‘An enchanted arrow?’ Mordred wondered. The arrow soared through the mana-dense air and as it reached the shadow’s unguarded face it exploded. A wave of heat expanded from the detonation, fire erupted like a vengeful spirit trying to tear out its adversary’s throat. It roared and growled as the entire area had been engulfed by a towering inferno.
Cecilia may not have known, but Mordred understood. ‘That thing is still alive,’ his ‘intuition’ passive ability had still alerted him to its hostility. Out from the pyre, the shadow monster rushed towards Cecilia with much greater speed and force. Without dragging its sword and without the sound of footsteps, Cecilia was left stunned and vulnerable to attack. Like a deer caught by the high beams of a car, she stood still, gripped with fear and hesitation.
In that instance, Mordred rushed in to defend her. He managed to push her away, but was instead caught in the full brunt of the attack himself. The black sword slashed through the armour. Not physically, instead it had phased right through the armour and hit Mordred directly. The locket he had received from Cecilia at the beginning also diced to pieces before its effect could even properly activate.
Blood stewed forth like a volcano. Mordred was tossed back several metres, leaving behind a thick trail of red ooze. It almost seemed like there was more blood outside his body than within.
Cecilia looked upon this scene with absolute horror. “M- Mordred!”