"Orisa needs help!" Toatre shouted before focusing back on Orisa. She threw two healing spells and attacked the Knights:
"Lesser Frostbite!" - "Lesser Frostbite!"
After hearing her call, Kanai rushed there to take a look, and the situation was horrible. While Toatre managed to halt the Skeletons a bit and even redirect one of the Knight's attention to their position, Orisa was still laying on the ground, and more enemies closed on her location. She was a mere twenty meters away, but the path was not safe at all.
"Everyone, gather at the top! We are leaving this spot now!" He shouted before running back to Iten and telling him. "Slowly back away, we are moving to help Orisa."
Kanai saw Onuki cast a few more healing spells on Orisa, and when a few seconds later most members gathered around them, he told the plan:
"If we won't help her now, she is dead. I need someone to distract armored Skels while we slowly move to Orisa's position. No point in splitting the squad now, and it's much easier and safer to move as one group."
"Agreed," nodded Iten. "Rakasha and I will attack the Knights."
"Great. Everybody else should focus on mages and archers while we move so that they wouldn't be able to pick us one by one." No one ever saw Kanai being so serious. "Run from cover to cover and shoot. When we are at Orisa's location, hide wherever you can and keep the Skels away. Go!"
They almost crawled between the rubble, moving from wall to wall and throwing spells at the Knights. Two of them already moved towards the squad, and the last was impaled by Toatre's spike, unable to take a single step.
They downed a dozen Skeletons and Zombies on their way to Orisa, but three squad members were heavily injured in the process, and even after some healing they had a hard time moving on their own, so Kanai, Crion and Clemen had to drag them.
When they finally reached the destination, Kanai crawled to check Orisa's condition. There was a lot of blood, but her wounds were already closed, so she at least wouldn’t bleed out. Her breathing was shallow, frequent, and hoarse, and she was sweating heavily.
"Orisa, what's wrong with you? I see no damage..." Kanai began with a shaky voice, squeezing her palm with his trembling hands. Orisa slowly opened her eyes and focused on Kanai.
"Call Iten..." She mumbled in a barely audible voice.
"Iten, Orisa needs you now!" As Kanai turned around to check the situation, his expression turned grim.
Onuki and Crion were out of Mana and simply ducked behind the cover. Three injured members were in no fighting shape, too. Toatre kept impaling and freezing one of the Knights while Rakasha and Iten fought two remaining Skels. That left Clemen who was constantly repelling incoming Zombies, and panicked Mira, trembling behind the wall.
He quickly crawled to her position and grabbed her shirt's collar:
"The hell you are doing!?" Kanai almost screamed, and then slapped her on the cheek, "pick up your fucking arrows and start shooting!"
While he crawled back to Orisa, Kanai finally heard a piece of good news from Clemen:
"Guys, I think they stopped summoning!"
While Clemen miraculously managed to kill all the incoming foes, there were still quite a few archers and mages attacking them from a distance, so Kanai turned around again:
"Mira, do something already!" Kanai himself was almost out of Mana, too, and planned to save its remnants for the Knights.
At last, Mira grabbed a few arrows that Orisa dropped after being hit, and started shooting:
"Blast Arrow!" - "Blast Arrow!" - "Blast Arrow!"
As ranged enemies began to fall, Kanai returned to a more pressing matter:
"Clemen, I really need you to swap with Iten! Try to hold on at least a bit, 'cause we need him now."
The Knights' situation was quite dire, as Iten's attacks were completely ineffective against their armor, and most of Rakasha's strikes were either blocked or parried. Toatre managed to break the Skeleton she impaled, but she reported her Mana pool being almost empty now, so Kanai asked her:
"Toatre, save your Mana focus on healing, please."
Clemen ran to the Knights and without slowing down jumped onto one of them, sticking both his daggers under the Skeleton's helm:
The helmet exploded from the inside, and the Skeleton fell on the ground, letting Clemen safely jump away.
"Iten, go check on the general," he said, giggling nervously. The Skeleton began to move, slowly getting back on his feet.
Iten went to Orisa, covering himself with the shield. When he passed by Mira, she peeked out of cover to take another shot and immediately took an arrow straight under her right collarbone. She fell on the ground, spilling blood and yelling in pain, and Iten jumped to cover her, quickly pulling the girl closer to the wall.
"Toatre, Onuki, heal her!" Iten shouted, slowly dragging her closer to Orisa.
Onuki recovered some of her Mana and helped Iten:
"Pull out the arrow, and I'll heal her again," she said. "One-two-three!"
Iten plucked out the arrow, and more blood spilled out as Mira began to scream again.
Onuki closed the wound, and now she was again out of Mana. Iten let Mira rest on the ground and finally moved to Orisa.
"What's wrong?" He asked with a serious face, observing Orisa's abnormal condition.
"My lung..." She breathed heavily, and it was hard to talk, "it hurts. Can't breathe..."
He quickly turned Orisa to her right side and leaned his ear to the left, listening to her shallow breathing. After a few moments, he distanced himself and said:
"I can fix you, but it will hurt." Iten's voice was full of concern. Orisa only nodded, unable to voice her reply. He turned Orisa on her back and said to Kanai, "hold her down so she won't move. Toatre, be ready to heal on my command."
After Kanai pressed her down, Iten concentrated on his finger, creating a thin and long needle of Mana. In a swift and precise motion, he struck an improvised instrument between her ribs, and Orisa yelled again, trembling in pain. When Iten pulled his finger away, bloody foam began to ooze out of the small wound, bubbling like soap. He pushed her chest down twice, and more foam came out, but a few seconds later it stopped, and Iten signaled Toatre to heal Orisa.
Orisa loudly gasped, finally being able to breathe normally.
"We are lucky that your lung straightened back by itself," Iten muttered, wiping sweat from his forehead.
"Thanks..." Orisa muttered weakly.
With no more targets, three remaining ranged attackers turned back to Rakasha and Clemen, who already had a hard time containing the Knights. A few seconds later Rakasha's left arm went limp after getting two arrows in the shoulder. His forearm was scorched from the Firebird spell, too. It was impossible to use the halberd with only one hand, so he began to pull back, growling from pain and frustration. Clemen moved into the opposite direction, dodging the arrows and leading the second Skeleton away.
"Decay!" - "Decay!"
Kanai and Toatre used what remained of their Mana pools to clear all the ranged attackers away, which left them empty against the Skeleton Knights.
"Iten, pull me up so I can buy us some time." Orisa felt better but still was too weak to walk and cast at the same time.
Iten pulled her up and acted as a support while she moved closer to the Knights. Rakasha made three more steps and fell to the ground, exhausted and bleeding from many cuts and wounds. Clemen was too far away, so it was hard to see his condition, but his shirt was red in a few spots, too.
"Force Wall!" - "Force Wall!" - "Force Wall!"
Orisa began to block the Knight, making as many barriers as possible. Every time the Skeleton moved, Orisa made another wall, so in the end, it was forced to attack the wall in hopes to break through. Every barrier lasted from five to seven hits, and Orisa had slightly less than half of her Mana left, so she could buy the squad some time to regroup.
"Toatre, Onuki, heal Rakasha and everybody you can, while we keep him busy," said Kanai and got up.
While his spell was relatively weak, in terms of Mana to damage conversion it was brilliant, hurting a lot over a long period of time for a small price.
Iten dropped his sword to support Orisa but kept his shield, and now he was able to throw the Knight back a little after it suddenly broke through Orisa's barrier with a lucky strike.
She imprisoned the Skeleton again and said to Iten:
"I'm better now, so you can let me go. Thank you, Iten."
He nodded and carefully let her go, moving back to grab his sword and check on the squad. Onuki and Toatre managed two more healing spells, and it was barely enough to wake Rakasha back. Mira was awake, too, but most of her arrows were broken during the previous skirmish, she had only two left. Kanai renewed his Decay on the Skeleton, and it was his last Mana, but the Skeleton was all tattered, too.
"Mira, finish him with your explosive arrows. Try hitting the head," he slowly muttered. Mira nodded and aimed, waiting for the barrier to break.
"Blast Arrow!" - "Blast Arrow!"
The Skeleton's head finally exploded, and its remains fell to the ground. For a few seconds, they were quiet, and then everyone let out a long sigh of relief. Those who were still standing slumped on the ground, dead tired.
"We fought. We won. We good," Rakasha said slowly, but Kanai added in a slightly confused voice:
"Was it just me, or we forgot about something?"
The squad members looked at each other, unsure what to think when suddenly they heard a scream:
"Guys! Heeeelp!" It was Clemen, and he ran in their direction, yelling, "that thing used some skill! And now it's kinda too fast and too furious!"
They saw the last Skeleton Knight running after Clemen like a skilled sprinter, with his body glowing yellow and red.
"I'm out of Mana,' Kanai said dejectedly, ready to give up.
"I can manage maybe two spells..." Crion lay on the ground, not ready to stand up yet.
"Onuki, I don't know how long it would take, so I'll need your Dispel." Orisa moved in the direction of Clemen and the Skeleton.
"You are not going anywhere! We'll manage somehow," Kanai grabbed Orisa's hand.
"We both know that I have to do it, Kanai." She pulled her hand out and went away.
Suddenly the Skeleton glowed blue and disappeared.
"Okay, that's enough for now." They heard the Captain clap twice from the balcony. "You all pass. Good job. Well, more or less."
The squad members were flabbergasted, exchanging awed looks. They could not believe their luck, as the situation was impossible, unthinkable.
Clemen slumped on the floor a few meters away from Orisa, panting and sweating. Other members helped each other to move there, too, and they all gathered around Orisa and Clemen.
The Captain came half a minute later, together with the Summoner, who immediately started treating the wounded with healing and disinfecting spells.
"You all were quite good, so I'm pleased." Captain Pain began, "also there were a few imbecilic moves, too. At one point, I even though about halting the session. But you made it somehow."
After looking at each squad member, he continued:
"You passed the second floor's test. Now, I'm giving you an hour to rest, and we'll practice on these Knights," he chuckled after seeing the squad's horrified expression, "don't fret, it's a simple training to feed you more power, not real combat."
He turned around and went to the balcony, opening a hidden door, and then shouted back to the squad:
"Come here to grab food and meds if you need them," and entered the room.
"Can't believe we are alive," Mira said with a disgusted voice. "I'm never working with this crazy bitch again. It's her fault that-"
Kanai grabbed her gorgeous black hair with his left hand and pulled it, turning her around. She yelped, but next moment Kanai's fist rammed into her nose, sending Mira to the floor.
"Shut up, garbage," Kanai muttered, barely containing his rage. "It's Orisa's mistake for rushing there alone, of course. But you are the only reason she had to take a risk. We all know that you fucked everything up on purpose."
"The hell do you think you are doing!?" Mira covered her nose, trying to stop the bleeding. "I'm a deputy squad leader, and-"
"One more word and I will fucking choke you."
She looked around but saw that nobody thought of supporting her, and promptly stopped.
The squad quietly moved to the resting room. Orisa sat near the Captain and asked in a slightly begrudged voice:
"Was it really necessary to summon Knights in front of me?"
"You won't believe me," he laughed happily, shaking his head in amazement, "but their spawn point was decided even before you came to the floor. When I saw you running in that direction, I almost spilled my drink. Life is strange."
"Indeed." Orisa nodded and thought deeply about the fight. "So, are we going to train again today?" She asked after some time.
"Of course. Tomorrow is your last day here, and I expect your squad to clear at least two floors."
"Two?!" Orisa was perplexed. "We barely managed even one, and almost died on top of that!"
"Oh, don't cry, girl." The Captain chuckled, sipping water from his cup, "the further you go the easier it is. Well, in the Dungeon, at least."
"But why? Aren't the lower floors harder?"
"Of course they are. But you get stronger, too. Your stats grow up, and you learn more skills," he paused, looking at the squad, "at least you should learn them. But I think you are safe on this front with all your flashy inventions, at least."
"In my situation..." She let out a long sigh, "well, creative thinking is everything I have."
"Anyway, after today's training you'll grow even stronger, so don't fret."
Orisa mused about new skills that she wanted to learn or invent. One of the directions she wanted to check out was hindering, or, in game's terminology, crowd control. She wanted to try it for two reasons. The first, an obvious one, was that it was simply useful to have some ways to block enemies like she already did with the Force Wall. The second was just a guess, but Orisa thought that she might use these spells despite her Pacifism problem, as they were not directly harmful even by her standards. She was already eager to get back to the gym and try something out, although, for the crowd control spells she'd need an assistant.
A few minutes later Iten woke her from the brainstorm she was doing in her head:
"Orisa, can we have a moment?" When she looked up, she saw Iten and other squad members gather around her.
"Thank you!" They all said cheerfully and bowed down.