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A note from puddles4263

14/14

Woof, this will be a rough week for you guys. Apologies.

“Fuck, everyone pull back together! NOW! Someone’s using a Skill on the Death Cultists… all of them at once.”

Thea grunted, more to herself than anyone else, because no one could hear the noise over the sound of her hammer crushing in the skull of one of the weird pseudo-humans that populated the Dungeon. Had it been a few weeks ago, before she had really grown into this Skill, her Dance of the Ghostbear, Thea didn’t think she could manage it.

Not in terms of pure combat skills, although it was true that she was so much stronger than she had been before coming here. But in terms of mentality. There was a certain… numbness in the heat that infused her when she used the Skill, and it was easy to lose herself in that, letting the fury take care of moral quandaries. Mostly, it dealt with them by flat out annihilating them, leaving nothing but a strange, addictive passion in its wake.

Still, if something was going wrong in such a way that Rose was losing her cool…

Thea whistled and began sprinting back towards the main group, which were about 30 meters behind her. Some of their group stayed towards the center, to keep track of the huge clash of bodies going on around them. While the Death Cultists were protecting their back, the Raid Dungeon crew had been rapidly ripping through the Dintan people, burning their Stamina and Mana to do it.

Even though they hadn’t held anything back, it had been hard. These were tough, strong opponents, with high-level Skills and a Class. But that Class was recently obtained, so after focusing concentrated fire on them, they would swiftly crack and break, falling away.

But that took time, and with the absolute tide of monsters screaming for their blood, there was something of a deadline.

Meanwhile, Ace and Alana, two of their best close combat specialists, were tied up keeping Gemma and Rhaidon under control. Just when it seemed that they would overpower them, Rhaidon would display a burst of strength, covering for Gemma, who was somewhat uninspired in her battle strategies; she basically hacked at you until you died. Against Alana, this was almost child’s play to handle.

It was an unwelcome reminder to Thea of the girl that Gemma had been, before… before she had been taken here against her will, and…

“Slow and Wither Skills! From the Death Cultists, targeting US. No longer friendlies.” Rose’s scream sounded, and that gave Thea some pause, as she rushed back towards the group. The Death Cultists were targeting them…?

“Chain Lightning! Chain Lightning! Chain Lightning!” Clarissa’s hands were those of a conductor, controlling the lightning, almost 8 bolts at once, moving back and forth, crisscrossing through the monsters between them and the Death Cultists. While the group hadn’t been paying attention, it appeared that the Death Cultists had allowed the monsters through and had planned on attacking them from behind.

If Rose’s Skill didn’t detect it…

Through the hole, Chrysanthemum charged, a huge train based upon the amount of force contained in her body. Thea grinned; truly, she loved to see her partner moving at her top speed, it filled her with a wonderful admiration for the world, and for nature’s natural genius.

Annie leaped forward, arrows blurring and curving, seemingly just bolts of pure energy, snapping over Chrysanthemum’s head, smashing aside any monsters that noticed what was happening, and moved to stop it. There were only a few, based on the speed at which the Raid Party reacted. They hadn’t necessarily been training to work together in perfect concert while they were here, but each of them had a System boosted Intelligence and had seen their fellows Skills dozens of times.

Honestly, if they hadn’t picked up each other’s timing, it would be almost insane.

But then the Death Cultist, led by a red-eyed, Grey Death Cultist finished their spell, and Chrysanthemum groaned, her speed slowing immensely. Through their bond, Thea could feel the drain on Chrysanthemum’s life force, and her fury reached a fever pitch. Roaring, she charged forward, to exact vengeance on these Death Cultists, but Annie was much closer.

When that woman moved, she fucking moved, and covered half the distance in a second, launching herself high in the air. Behind, Thea heard a shout from Gemma, “Like I’ll let you!” and then Alana’s calm short, and didn’t even bother to turn around, just rushing forward, her eyes following Annie arc up into the air.

By the time Thea had reached the grouping of Rose, Ptolemy, and Drake, Annie was an incandescent sun in the sky. But when she spoke, her words echoed, as if the very light she was producing carried the noise outward in a circle. “Winter’s Dream.”

At first, there was nothing, and then from Annie spiraled outward several snowflake petals, that split into several hundred orbs, that split into several thousand arrows. They fell like the driven snow, thick and blinding and heavy, smashing into the middle of the mass of Death Cultists, where their grey leaders stood.

Hissing, the Red Death Cultists rushed forward, throwing their bodies in the way, leaping to protect their leaders, and then the arrows arrived, cutting through into the bodies. For a second, the whole battlefield seemed to still, even the Dintan behind them, even Gemma and Rhaidon, just listening to the thwack of arrows into bodies.

Annie fell to the ground, panting, and hopped backward a bunch, heading back towards the group. Because although there appeared to be about 200 Death Cultists that were now dead, laying on the ground, three Grey Death Cultists shoved aside the bodies of Grey and Red Death Cultists alike, looking at the Raid Party with angry eyes. And behind them, a wave of monsters came, roaring.

Chrysanthemum had made it back to Ptolemy, who dispelled the Wither and Slow cast on her. She snorted in thanks and looked at Thea in askance. Thea looked at Rose. Rose was biting her lip.

“They are doing wither and slow again. We need to stop them if we are gonna have a chance of this.” Rose said, her eyes bright as they flicked to and fro, searching for a way out. “Clarissa, how much Mana do you have?”

It was a strange question because Clarissa was throwing back Mana potions at the moment. In answer, she just held out her hand and wiggled it back and forth in a somewhat ambivalent gesture. Rose’s eyes darkened.

“On it,” Lucifer grunted out, and he produced a small knife from his spatial ring. Waving the knife up and down, he seemed to… cut the world. There was suddenly a jagged gash there, where there hadn’t been one before. Without fanfare, hefting his huge blade, he stepped through the hole-

-and appeared behind the Grey Death Cultists, his sword silent, despite its large size, beheading all three at once. Then he stepped back through, appearing next to the rest of the group. Deftly, he used his fingers to close up the hole in the air.

Everyone was gaping at him.

“That wasn’t a Skill,” Rose said, admiring the small knife in Lucifer’s hands.

He grunted. “Reward for defeating the first Tier III Raid Boss. I prefer bigger swords, however.”

Even Thea winced at that. Truly, this guy was someone who had nothing on his mind but hard, hard steel.

“FUCK!” Gemma screamed. “Just die already, will you! Once we end you, we are all finally free! We can enter eternal rest. Why won’t you die?”

“A lifetime isn’t long enough to explain why my life is worth so much more than yours,” Ace said casually, running towards Gemma, low to the ground. With a screech, the woman warped by time moved to meet him. Thea glanced at Rose, in askance. Better to find out information now, while she still had a thread of clarity, and could keep back the red from her vision.

Drake lumbered forward, his huge bone armor making him look more like the monsters that were rushing towards them than a member of the Raid Party. “Anything else?”

“Nothing unusual,” Rose said, glancing around. The Death Cultists, the remaining thousand or so, were forming up into a column and rushing towards them with the monsters. “ But this is gonna be a slog.”

Lucifer stored his knife away and produced another large sword, the insect scythe he had found earlier in the Raid Dungeon. Annie knocked an arrow.

“No time to waste, then,” She commented, and then everyone exploded out in different directions.

Clarissa finished what must have been her 20th potion and raised her hands over her head. “Maelstrom.”

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puddles4263

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