Ophelia looked at Shal in shook. “You are not worried? You don’t wish to look? We currently have no pressing matters. There would be no harm in the diversion.”
Shal shrugged. “Even I know little of the specifics of my disciple’s life. He comes, he goes… I can sense he lives and is not in mortal danger. As such, it is fine to leave him to his own struggles.”
Ophelia considered Shal for several seconds. He kept his expression as blank as possible. It was a small thing, but Shal had taken notice when Ophelia had set up an array in her personal room to contact the Oracle. At the time, Shal had simply thought it strange.
But the next morning, when he had discovered Randidly was missing? And due to the arrangement of rooms, if one were to draw a line from Shal’s quarters where he had spent the night and the location of the attack, Ophelia’s ritual was directly in the middle.
Still, even if Shal suspected something was up, he had no idea what Ophelia’s game was. Was she attempting to use Randidly as leverage for some kind? She had been hinting it was time to let Shal in on the great secrets of the world but had told him the time was not yet right. Although he was frustrated by the stonewalling after the fight and loss against Versault, there was little Shal could do to force Ophelia’s hand.
But this recent disappearance… it stunk like a setup.
That didn’t mean Shal didn’t feel real concern over his disciple’s predicament. But what Shal did know was that his disciple was more of a monster than he was. If they were simply keeping him captive… Inwardly, Shal smirked.
Giving that boy time to adapt was a mistake they would regret.
“...Well then,” Ophelia said lightly. “There is another matter we could look into. The Wights are gathering their forces to launch an assault on the convoy heading to Hastam from the Northern Domain. Breaking their armies would be a suitable distraction from the waiting.”
Waiting, Ophelia informed him, for a response from the Oracle. Until that happened, they were grounded in Hastam, she had said.
Immediately, Paranoia rose in Shal. Had Ophelia predicted his first rejection, and this was the true trap? She certainly recovered quickly. Or had it all been a coincidence? Either way, these methods of thinking were not productive. Best to move forward, and prepare for the worst.
To show his agreement, Shal allowed a small smile to show on his face. “Good. Exercise would be the perfect distraction.”
Ophelia didn’t even respond. Immediately, she called in an aide and released a slew of orders. Within fifteen minutes, the two of them had left Hastam and were rushing quickly to the Northeast.
The Wights might mostly rely on low-level foot soldiers for their martial superiority, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have powerful forces themselves. The so-called “Witch Kings” were exceedingly difficult to deal with, even when Shal allowed himself to use his preferred Style. Using only a Pontiffs level of strength, defeating a Witch King was a headache. Their bodies were simply too durable for the amount of damage they could inflict.
They weren’t particularly mobile, but they were replaceable. After all, Shal himself had slain nine such Witch Kings, yet rumors still abounded about the power of the five Witch Kings. It was clear that the Witch Kings were a much more common foe than the Wights were letting on, but Shal couldn’t figure out what they were doing.
Still, a much more finite, and deadly, threat was the Propagators.
“Here,” Ophelia said. Shal’s mouth twitched. So close? They had barely gone 20 kilometers away from Hastam. Were there truly-
His eyes narrowed. There were.
At the same time as Shal’s Perception locked onto them, they noticed him. There were two Propagators here, and both buzzed to life as they felt him. Their strange song spread out and Shal could feel the rumbles in the ground as the puppets they had hidden shuddered to life.
Shal spared Ophelia a glance. “...I’ll begin presently.”
“Haha, did you think you would fight alone?” Ophelia asked, amused. “No, on this day I will be joining you. Let’s truly annihilate them and rip out the root of the problem. Perhaps I have been feeling frustrated from sitting still too long, but I am looking forward to this.”
Without waiting for a response, Ophelia moved. And as she moved, she struck out with her spear. The air was filled with the crumbling roar of a collapsing mountain as her strike rolled forward.
The Propagator base was located between two small farms. In spite of himself, Shal’s eyes were drawn to the leftmost. The fields were filled with lilacs. Their lavender color gave him a moment of pause, even in the thick of battle. But then he gritted his teeth and followed after Ophelia.
The Certain Eyes of the Wraith Adder calmed his visage and focused him. With a numb detachment, Shal watched the ground between the two farms explode outwards in a rain of debris. A huge six armed puppet screamed its fury as it rose to meet Ophelia.
The puppets might be enough against normal opponents, but Ophelia was not a normal opponent. Even Shal, who believed himself to be nearing the pinnacle of strength, felt a strange sort of fear when witnessing the raw force of Ophelia’s images.
And that was before she began using Skills again. Now that she had lifted that restriction…
The puppet did not break, but it was smashed against the ground. Shal could sense the fractures in its frame, however. It would not live through another strike.
However, the Propagators were moving. The larger of the two was a rose-colored crystal grasshopper. It flew upwards, baring its wings at Ophelia. Three strange puppets rolled up out of the hole that the Propagator had sprung from. They had no eyes or mouths, but each of the man limbs sticking out from the central torso ended in a wickedly sharp blade.
They bounced off the ground with preternatural quickness and dexterity, rushing toward Ophelia. She simply smiled.
The image above the battlefield changed to an endless sea of mud. Those agile puppets that were rushing toward Ophelia with deadly intent immediately slowed to crawl.
“Got it,” Shal replied. He appeared between them and lashed out toward the puppets. They reacted more quickly than he expected, but it was nothing compared to the Wraith Viper. Their fragile bodies shattered under his quick blows. Ophelia rushed past, heading toward the rose grasshopper, which began to flee.
“The other is yours.”
Shal nodded and leapt to the left, toward the farm of lilacs. Seeing his approach, the azure crystal bug that was hiding among the flowers exploded upwards. Two screamer type puppets reared up out of the ground and screeched at Shal. But Shal isolated himself with his Predator’s Immunity and cut them in twain as he passed between them.
As his Viper Fang bisected the azure bug, Shal frowned. It was already missing one of its antennae. Interesting. Who would be capable of injuring a Propagator around here…? Perhaps it was Aylwind.
Congratulations! You have reached Level 90! +8 Stats distributed between Endurance, Perception, Strength, Agility, and Focus, +8 Free Stats! +1 Stat to a Physical Stat. +3 Agility. +12 Health, +5 Mana, +18 Stamina.
Congratulations! You have learned the Skill Battlelord’s Presence! Due to your Soulskill, Essence of the Wraith Viper, your Skill has evolved!
Congratulations! You have learned the Skill Isolating Fear (A)!
Waves of forces exploded from the clashes between Ophelia and the grasshopper; it seemed like Ophelia hadn’t been lying about feeling slightly pent up after all of the waiting they had had to go through recently. Well, that was fine.
Although the explosions made it seem like a struggle, Shal knew that Ophelia would be the victor of that fight in the sky. As such, he paused and looked around him at the lilac farm.
His immediate reaction was a guilty wince. The delicate flowers had not fared well in the brief spat. Although Shal had simply ripped apart two puppets, the strikes had razed entire swaths of the plant life. The petals floated gently in the air around him.
Shal closed his eyes. He wondered what Lucretia was doing now…
In his surprise, Shal focused his killing intent on the speaker. A girl, likely no older than twenty, fell backward as she was smashed with his concentrated intent to kill. The basket and gardening tools she was carrying scattered on the porch.
“...apologies miss. As is plain, Wights are here. Please, return indoors until they are finished.”
But to Shal’s surprise, the girl blinked, stood up, then walked out to survey the wreckage of her fields. “Ah, this is horrible. The fields… jeez, I just had one job, and I’ve already made a mess of it…”
Feeling profoundly uncomfortable, Shal considered the young woman. She was certainly lovely, in a strange vitality of expression that she possessed, but she couldn’t stay here. More than anything else, Shal hated dealing with civilians. “Miss, please-”
“You don’t need to call me miss,” The woman said, waving her hand. “My name is Rumera. Rumera Rune. But you can call me Rumi.”