It was a mistake after all, coming here alone. I had thought that I could catch the Archer off guard and finish him off before more damage was done, before he shoots down more of us. However, it seems like I took a little too much time. While just one step away from finishing off the Archer Champion I hesitated, I thought that he looked familiar and couldn't deal the finishing blow when I should. Thanks to that mistake, now I find myself facing two of them, with one of my legs injured no less.
The Archer draws his bow, and reflexively, I raise my shield. Following the soft whistling of a flying arrow, I hear a dull clang from my shield. It was like being hit back a sledge hammer, it's the same powerful shot from before. This must be the Archer skill [Impact Arrow], a single powerful shot that applies a knockback effect. With [Guarding Stance] I should be able to resist the effect, but upon feeling the sharp pain in the back of my right heel, my stance quickly crumbled and I find myself flying backwards.
After landing with my back against the ground, I spot the second Champion step forward. In his hand is a wand, the weapon of choice of the Warlock class. Warlocks are a class specializing in runes, spells that can be placed on surfaces and activated by either coming in range of it or triggered by the caster. Since he used [Assassination], I assume that this is a Warlock with subclass of Assassin. Not the most effective combination I'd say, as Warlocks are mainly played as a DPS class, stacking up multiple runes with various effects on one spot for massive damage output. For a class like this, it's best to subclass something that boosts magical powers instead.
Though, I do know someone who subclasses an Assassin with Warlock. The Warlock has a skill called [Rune Master], which increases the power of the runes placed down in accordance with the how close the Warlock is to it when placed. The closer the Warlock is, the more powerful the runes placed down. That guy, the one subclassing an Assassin as a Warlock, he would use [Assassination] to get behind his target and place a combination of runes down, then moving out of his opponent's range with the use of [Shadow Step]. Doing this, he would be point blank when placing down the runes, making full use of the [Rune Master] skill's effect. Still, since he had to wait for the cooldowns of [Assassination] and [Shadow Step] before launching another attack, his DPS is quite low, though admittedly, he's a pain to deal with in PVP matches. And to make up for his lack of overall damage, I remember that he would often teach up with an Archer subclassing an Assassin. Their usual tactic was that the Warlock would use runes to immobilize enemies while the Archer would pick them off. Otherwise, the Archer would draw enemies in, and while their foes had their focus on the Archer, the Warlock would move in and ambush them with runes......
Wait a minute, isn't this... This situation right now...
With a wave of the Warlock Champion's wand, crimson lights surround me, and upon the ground I am laying upon, runes of fiery red starts to form. Quickly, I claw for safety, trying to get out of the range of the forming runes. However, as I drag myself away, I hear a soft whistling, and following that, I feel a piercing pain in my back. An arrow had struck me, the Archer has absolutely no intention at all in letting me get away. The pain took away the strength I've gathered, and I fall flat onto the dirt. At the same time, the runes are complete and I've lost my chance at escaping.
Looks like this is it for me. I guess my gamble didn't pay off at all. You win some and you lose some I guess. I'll leave the rest to you, Toto, Six, and Aurelius, I better not see you on the other side when I get there...... Fuck. How did it end up like this anyways? We should have been partying after setting the new clear time record for the [World Breaker Behemoth]. Why the hell did we end up in this world? This isn't fair. This isn't fair, damn it! What did I do to deserve this!? Why do I have to deal with saving the world and all this nonsense!? I just want to go home and take a nice long shower in my own bathroom and go to sleep in my own bed in my own bedroom. Is that too much to ask? I hate this! I hate this!
The runes glow brighter and brighter, and as heat and light erupts from the ground, I shut my eyes, hoping that my death would be swift and painless. The heat lasts only for an instant and when I open my eyes again, there is nothing but darkness in front of me, as if a dark mist is constantly in front of my eyes.
This must be death. I wonder if my consciousness is going to be floating in this darkness forever.
The answer arrives much more quickly than I expected when the darkness beings to part and reveals the light. And with the light flooding my vision, I see a fiery pillar in the middle of...... the forest? Why am I still here? Am I not dead? I look down upon myself and seeing that everything is intact, I let out a sigh of relief.
"Don't relax yet, we're not quite done."
This voice... Turning around toward the source of the voice, I find Six dragging me along by the neck of my armor. I get it now, that dark mist, that wasn't the afterlife, that was just Six dragging me along with [Shadow Step].
Soon, the fire pillar before me starts subsiding, and though the fire, I get to see the surprised expression of the two enemy Champions. Looks like they weren't expecting Six to show up.
The Archer starts drawing his bow, but Six was faster, he always had the fastest reflexes among us. From the bag he's carrying, Six took out a black orb and tossed it into the left over flames from the fire pillar. Upon catching fire, a large body of smoke bursts from the orb, filling the space between us and the enemy Champions. It's the Assassin skill [Smoke Bomb], or it was supposed to be, but while in Elysium Online, smoke bombs just appear out of nowhere, here, we needed to get our own supplies of bombs. Luckily, the craftsmen in this kingdom actually know how to make one. Regardless of the smoke, the Archer lets his nocked arrow loose, but by then Six had already ducked down, making the arrow miss its mark. From his lowered position, Six reaches into his bag and pulls out an olive colored cloak and lay it over me. It's cold to the touch. Seems like [Frost Ward] has been applied to it.
Before I even get to wonder why [Frost Ward] has been casted onto this cloak, from the sky, fire begins to rain down, crashing into the ground and setting the ashen grounds ablaze. This must the Toto and the Sorcerers. They're probably using the smoke to pinpoint this location, bombarding it to cover for our escape.
"Let's move, Cecilia. Can you run?"
Six kneels over me, trying to help me up.
"No, I can't run, not now."
"I'll have to carry you then."
"That's not it, there's a Warlock Champion here-"
"I know, I stepped on a rune when I came running in after you. Fortunately, the rune was fire based and Toto casted a [Frost Ward] on me beforehand."
"Then you know if we don't take them out here, there's going to be more."
The runes, they are only visible when they are being placed down. After that, only the caster and those with the [Insight] skill can see them. The only ones here with [Insight] are Aurelius and Toto, one of whom and currently unconscious and the other is a Sorcerer that needs to be protected in the backlines. Navigating around the runes will be difficult, and it'll be even more so with the Archer present, picking us off while the runes keep us at bay. Not to mention, with the Warlock's ability to use [Assassination] and [Shadow Step], you won't know when he'll appear in our midst and place a rune right under out feet. I only got this close because I pulled something so stupid no one else would think or expect it. As for Six, he was able to make it this far because I distracted them. If we don't take them out here and now, I'm afraid that we won't get another chance.
"Fine... Michaela did say that if you think that you can win, we'll finish it here."
Michaela? Not Aurelius? I wonder if he's fine. Well, if Michaela is still present, he must be still alive at least.
"Don't worry. We have a chance at winning. Now, brace yourself."
From a kneeling position, I take a deep breath, and upon filling my lungs to the maximum capacity, I unleash a roar so powerful, the ashes littering the surrounding grounds roll up into the air by the force of my voice.
"Now, we wait. Make sure to keep an eye out, Six."
Before long I hear a soft whistling, and cutting through the smoke screen, an arrow flies towards me. The arrow hits my shield which I have stabilized by jamming its bottom end into the ground, though the force of the shot is so great that it pushes me back despite it all. However, that doesn't matter, all that matters is that the Archer is still within range to hear my [Warcry]. I was sure that they would try to increase their distance from us, and thus securing the absolute advantage in long range combat. However, it looks like they weren't able to make it too far. I must have done quite some damage on the Archer with the [Shield Charge].
With gusto, Six leaps through the smokes, tracing after the trajectory of the arrow that came for me.
"I see him!"
From beyond the smoke screen, I hear his call, and reflexively, my lips curl upwards. Right now, the Archer would most likely try to shoot Six down as he approach. Unfortunately, that wouldn't work. [Warcry] compels all enemies in range to gather their attention onto the user of the skill, and him or her alone. According to Aurelius, even if you realize that your attention is being forcefully drawn, you still won't be able to turn your eyes away.
As of now, the Archer's only choice is to take shots at Six while his gaze is drawn towards my direction, or take a shot at me instead and try to take me down, thereby, cancelling the effect of [Warcry]. However, with me hiding behind the smoke screen and shield, even if he has a general idea of where I am due to having his gaze drawn towards me, will he be able to kill me before Six reaches him? I highly doubt it, and he knows it too. That is why he'll come, I know he will, after all, I...
The moment I feel the air shifting behind me, I turn to my back while having my shield facing the Archer, my reaction speed faster than before since this time, I expected him to come. For the first time, my blood red eyes meets with his, and from the look in his eyes, it clear that he's surprised, surprised that I was able to read him, as if I already knew the way he fights. Reflexively, the Warlock Champion uses [Shadow Step], trying to get away from the range of my blade, but he is too late, the moment he appeared within my sight it was already over. While he may be invulnerable in [Shadow Step], I can still see his trajectory, I can predict where he's going to reappear from the dark mist, and though he'd have made more than enough distance away the reach of my sword by then, I do have one skill that allows me to strike well beyond the length of my blade.
Inevitably, the Warlock starts reappearing from the dark mist, and at the same time I swing my sword towards the direction he's escaping towards. Though my blade is far from being able to reach the Warlock, from the tip my sword, a wave of energy shoots out as I swing. This is the Knight skill: [Counter Blast]. I have converted the damage blocked from the Archer's last shot into my own.
The wave of energy cuts right through the Warlock, splitting him in half from top to bottom. At the same time, the ground beneath me starts glowing in red. They must be from the runes he placed beneath me. With no time to get out of the way, I pull the cloak Six had given me and try to cover as much of myself as I can, hoping that the [Frost Ward] on it would protect me.
From beneath me, fire bursts forth. I was hoping for it to be fire. It was either going to be electricity or fire. While Warlocks does not have any elemental specialties, with so many to choose from, one is bound to develop a preference towards a certain elements when using it against an enemy without any particular elemental resistance. The Warlock/Assassin I knew back in Elysium Online, the one often paired with his Archer friend, he had a preference for fire and electricity, said he likes the flashy effects. For pure damage, he'd usually go with fire, and for crowd control, he goes with electricity.
"So, it was you after all..."
By the time the smokes had cleared, Six had returned with his hands covered in blood. Sitting by the stump of a tree, I greet him with a forced smile.
"Did you do it?"
"Yeah, I did. It was as you said, he couldn't shoot me as I approach from his flank."
We let moment silent pass between us.
"How are you feeling?"
At my question, Six sighs and turn his head up towards the sky. Though, there's probably nothing much to see, as it would be covered in smoke and ashes.
"It feels gross. I mean, it's gross too when I kill the [Demons], but maybe because they look more human than the rest, it feels worse."
"I'm sorry, Six. I intended to finish them off on my own."
"Well, I'm going to have to do it eventually, better sooner than later I say. Can't have just you and Aurelius do all the heavy lifting after all."
Is it just me, or is he sounding a bit more grown up that before? I guess something like this can change a person. Aurelius and I, we've probably changed somewhat as well. If you ask me thought, I prefer not to have to go through these kinds of changes.
"Let's head back, Six."
"Will do, I think I've had more than enough today."
Leaving the forest, we meet up with the Knights on standby before the edge of the forest, making sure that no enemies slip by while the Clerics tend to Aurelius in the back. Or at least, we should have. However, upon our arrival, what we find are bodies of Knights, Clerics, and Sorcerers strewn about the ground. Fredericka, one of Aurelius' creatures, is flat on the ground with the neigh unbreakable shell of hers cracked. Those that still stand are facing away from the forest and towards a single figure.
The figure appears to be a woman, one that possesses muscular limbs covered in dark purplish fur, her hands and feet more akin to a halfway between feline paws and the human hands, yet hanging from her back is a scaly, sinewy tail. She wears little armor, with only a chest piece on her torso and a helmet, one very similar to the one of the sorts that the Beastkins use, the kinds with compartments for the ears to fit in. From her feature and her armor, it can be undoubtedly said that this figure is one of the Beastkins. Which is why it's so confounding. Why is one of the Beastkins, one of our allies, lifting Toto by her head, seemingly threatening to crush her with but a twitch of her fingers?
What has happened while I was gone? What went on while Six and I were fighting? Such questions are floating about my head but none of them matters, I know only one thing: Before me is an enemy, and I must take her down before she does the same to another one of our own.
End of Chapter 34