"So where are these Darkness monsters?" Lone asked as he and his team followed Tal'hat'mata down the wooden hallway.
When he waited for a reply, he glanced at the message from the system which had appeared, confirming that they were all, indeed, within the world tree's dungeon.
|The host has entered the dungeon: Elestia's Heart|
Created by the joint effort of the Western World Tree, Elestia, and the Elven Council that serves her.
It functions as a stop-gate for the Darkness monsters spawned by Ythmagobla's curse.
Its power is fading and it will soon stop functioning. Time left: 40 years.
|Defeat at least 100 Darkness monsters.|
Even though this notification was the regular colour of the system, with the assistance of the power granted to Lone and Eolande by Clicker, they could see the additional information about the description.
"The tree has a name?" Lone mumbled.
"Sorry?" Tal'hat'mata said with a confused look on her face.
Lone remained vigilant of his surroundings as he continued, "Does the world tree have a name?"
"Of course not," Tal'hat'mata answered immediately. "Who would dare to grant a name to something as holy as a world tree? We simply refer to them by their locations in Teresta."
'Heh, so they didn't name it? Then who called it Elestia? Is the tree sentient? This is suddenly getting a lot more interesting...' Lone thought to himself.
Eolande didn't care enough to ask even though she had also seen the additional information about the tree. She was busy wondering which of his absurd abilities Lone would use to make this difficult mission even easier than sleeping.
The group of five continued onwards and soon found themselves to be in front of a small wooden door that didn't seem to have any handles or knobs.
Tal'hat'mata took a deep breath before saying, "This is the first room prepared for us by the dungeon. There should be between five and twenty Darkness monsters in there. Hopefully, there's only five, but we should prepare for the worst."
Lone nodded. "Is there anything that we should know in particular? Like, a certain weakness or battle tactic."
"Naturally, they die quickly to lightness magic, though I don't think any of us know how to use that," Tal'hat'mata said to which everyone agreed. "The only other thing of note is that the creatures don't work together and are very erratic. There isn't any pattern or rhythm in their movements, so keep that in mind."
"'Kay, got it. If anyone gets hurt, head to me and I'll heal you." While he was confident, Lone didn't want to risk letting anyone get killed by his arrogance just because the monsters would probably only be B-ranked in power.
The team entered the door and found themselves to be in a narrow tunnel that had a total of seven Darkness monsters in it. They looked like little Humans except for the fact that their skin was charcoal-black and they had no heads.
Rachel shivered a bit in fright. "They're creepy..."
Lone stepped forward. "I'm the strongest amongst us, and since there's only seven, let me test the waters. You okay with that, Tal'hat'mata?"
"Okay, just try to get as many as you can before they notice us and retreat immediately after your first attack. We need to work together. They're far stronger than your average B-ranker," the Elven beauty said.
She would have preferred to stick together as they killed the creatures one by one, but she had heard about Lone's capabilities from the whispers going around in the city, so she trusted him.
Lone smirked. "What a coincidence, so am I."
He, after saying that, clapped his hands and drew them apart to create a lightning wave. As a B-ranker, the strength of all of his skills had increased by a large margin, so the usually thin and rigid lightning wave was now thick and full of power. Lone felt like it had the same strength as five lightning waves from back when he was a C-ranker.
Lone launched the arc of blue lighting towards the nearest Darkness monster, fully expecting it to crumble under the oppressive power.
As soon as Lone's magic touched the creature, a violent howl echoed out of its body despite it not owning a mouth. After twitching and convulsing on the floor for a few seconds, the monster stood back up as if nothing had happened.
Clearly, the thing was injured, as made obvious by its limp while it hobbled in Lone's direction, but it hadn't died, which shocked him a bit. "Okay, if that doesn't work, Darkness, it's your turn."
'Using me already? Such a demanding master... and after what you did to me in my home...' the coquettish voice of Darkness rang through Lone's head.
A few moments later, all of his hair had turned purple along with his eyes.
|The host has entered [Darkness Mode].|
"Oh, children of my own element? How curious. Well, at least they're far weaker than that silly curse was," Darkness, who was in control of Lone's body, said as he held his chin playfully.
Tal'hat'mata's face paled. Ignoring the changes to Lone's body, she started to panic. "Lone! Get back here, now! All seven of them are coming! Quickly! If we can make a formation fast enough, we might win thanks to the narrowness of this tun-"
"Please, lovely young lady," Darkness called as he turned around and looked at Tal'hat'mata with a coy expression on his face, "There's no need to be so serious."
One of the Darkness monsters had almost reached him by now, and Tal'hal'mata didn't have any more time to hesitate. It still wasn't too late. She tried to run forwards to save him, or to at least sacrifice herself if it meant allowing the man who had promised to save her home, the world tree, to escape and regroup with the others, however, Eolande stopped her.
"What are you doing?! He's going to die! Anything those bastards touch gets corrupted!" Tal'hat'mata shouted at the violet-haired girl.
Eolande shook her head and couldn't help but pity the poor Elf for her normal sense of reasoning. "He'll be fine."
Tal'hat'mata was just about to push Eolande away when she stopped in her tracks. Lone had pierced the approaching Darkness monster with one of his tails and the creature merely lay there, still and unmoving.
"Did... did he kill it with his... with his tail?" Tal'hat'mata looked bewildered.
Physical attacks rarely dealt much damage to the Darkness monsters unless there were at least A-ranked in strength, and even then, it would still only inflict minimal injuries.
What happened next, almost destroyed the poor girl's reasoning entirely. The Darkness monster's body exploded into several motes or dark energy which flowed into Lone's body.
Darkness put one of his fingers to his mouth and grinned. "Ahhhh... how delicious."
'Don't go overboard. I'll destroy you if you go too far, Darkness,' Lone ordered as he watched the element consume the monster, bolstering its own power.
"Of course, Master," Darkness replied ambiguously.
The purple-haired Foxkin then slaughtered the remaining six Darkness monsters that were approaching him with ease. It was like watching a tiger massacre lambs.
Tal'hat'mata couldn't understand, no, she refused to understand. How could a B-ranker easily destroy seven spawns of Darkness that usually required a team of fifteen well-trained B or A-rankers and at least two C-ranked nature mages to deal with? She didn't know, however, if he could do that, then maybe they could complete their first mission and survive today...
"Well then," Darkness turned around. His purple eyes were practically shining with glee. "Shall we continue?"
In a secluded and unreachable dimension at the very centre of the world tree's core, a small girl with green hair sat in the fetal position. She slowly raised her body ever so slightly. Her loose and long hair covered her body as she moved for the first time in several decades.
She turned her head in a particular direction and a strange look crossed her face. The girl opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She frowned.
The little girl stayed still as she looked around a bit, and after some time had passed, she noticed that she could feel her legs again.
Standing up, the girl tried to walk forward but stumbled and fell over. A bigger frown appeared on her cute little face. Again, she tried to move her lips. "Wh...Ach! Keh..." She collapsed and held her throat as she choked on something.
A sticky black substance escaped her mouth after her coughing had subsided. The girl didn't move and simply lay there. In her vision, she could see a particular Foxkin defeating and seemingly absorbing the remnants of Ythmagobla's curse that plagued her and her body.
Some more time passed as she continued to motionlessly observe this peculiar purple-haired man. It was only when he had defeated one hundred Darkness monsters that he turned away with his party and left the dungeon.
"Who... are... you?" the girl whispered in a painfully quiet voice. Her eyes closed and she reentered her slumber. The Darkness was eternal, and her finite existence couldn't dare to expel the work of an Ancient Darkness Dragon, but now, something, no, someone, had given her hope.
Lone returned to his body and Darkness happily gave it back after claiming that his powers had increased by a sizable amount. According to the element, consuming those monsters was far more beneficial to him than erasing the curses of the two Foxkin was.
He had also said that it would be impossible to summon him again for at least a full day thanks to the fact that he had maintained control over Lone's body for roughly ninety-minutes which had been very taxing on his spirit.
"That was really boring," the Demon Princess complained. "I didn't get to do anything..."
"I'm fine with doing nothing..." Rachel quietly replied. In her opinion, she only wanted to fight in controlled environments since that was all she had done for her entire life, so real combat made her a bit anxious.
Lone stretched his body and he was smiling from ear to ear. Eolande noticed this and said, "What's got you in such a good mood, Husband?"
"I'm looking forward to what's waiting for us back in that gathering area," Lone explained as he continued walking towards the large gate that led back to the open chamber they had entered from.
"That was all so unbelievable..." Tal'hat'mata was clearly still in shock.
Eolande floated away from Lone and placed a hand on the Elf's shoulder. "You get used to it."
"I doubt that," Tal'hat'mata laughed uncertainly.
Lone wasn't paying much attention and was instead thinking out loud. "I wonder if every mission will be this hard, or will that Shit'len stop targetting us? I mean, this was only easy thanks to my special affinity for Darkness..."
Lone shook his head and put the matter in the back of his mind. For now, he had to return to the outsider manor and see if his friends had finished their missions yet.
Lone and his team left the dungeon and, as expected, there was someone waiting for them there. A Fairy with a thin figure and friendly look on his face waved towards them.
This man seemed to be very important, because, even the several groups of powerful keepers in the room were giving him more than enough space to fly around and be seen clearly by Lone and his group.
"Hi! I'm Elder Luckful. I'm in charge of restoring the world tree and trying to push its corruption back. I heard that you said you could help me?" he said in a very casual and sincere manner.
"Shame," Lone grumbled. "It's not Shit'len."
Elder Luckful titled his head in confusion. "You are the person that said those things, right? I don't think we have any other world tree keepers that are nine-tailed Golden Foxkin who have awakened too many times for comfort... do we?"
"Yeah, it's me. Can you find me tomorrow? I just came back from a long fight and I'd like to relax a bit," Lone asked respectfully. This Fairy had been nice to him thus far, so he felt that there was no reason to be rude.
"Sure," Elder Luckful smiled. "It's not like the tree will die tomorrow, wehehe."
"Thanks." With that, Lone left the underground area with his team.
"That Fairy, he was really laidback, huh?" Lone commented.
Tal'hat'mata nodded her head and replied, "He has the least power amongst the council elders, but he's very well respected by the community for his peaceful attitude and because of his great efforts to save the world tree."
"Sound like a nice guy," Rachel said with her usual pep having returned now that there were in a more normal situation.
Everyone else agreed, and so, they returned to the outsider manor. As it was, they were actually the first team to come back today.
Lone decided to study up on the world tree and its history a bit while he waited for the other two teams to complete their missions. Eolande left and went to her dimension while Rachel decided to sleep since she was exhausted.
The Demon Princess chose to practice her swordsmanship and Tal'hat'mata returned to her own home in the city.
Lone was greatly disappointed that he couldn't crush Elder Shan'len's spirit today, but he was a patient man, so Lone would happily wait for the right moment to get revenge for the poor treatment and clear discrimination during his tests.
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