Quite a bit more explaining about the game mechanics in this world.
Five Rotters covered in the Virul guard armour came shuffling from behind the corridor. Upon seeing the armour Zaran frowned as it meant one of two things. Either there's something down here that can turn dead bodies into Rotters or upon being killed by a Rotter you become one yourself. Yet the guard armour was in surprisingly good condition, which most likely meant that they had not died due to the Rotters but to something else, meaning that there was most likely more to this matter than meets the eye.
Zaran's mana was only a quarter full by this point and could only rely on his 'Earth lance' to fight the rotters. Yet in the previous fight two Rotters were already starting to deal with it effectively so five surely would be able to deal with the spell effectively.
Due to his unconscious state Zaran's mana had not been regenerating and only now had it started to regenerate. Due to only regaining 15 mana every 5 seconds it would take him nearly 2 minutes before he could participate effectively in the fight again. While he could already join the fight with his 'Earth lance', he knew that the spell's effectiveness would be close to zero so it was better to let the others buy some time for him to recover mana.
"Nuvahn and Kirin you guys need to buy time! I need to recover my mana to use 'Flash fire'!" Zaran said as he backed off from the fight.
Kirin growled and fired tiny purplish-black fireballs in quick succession at the Rotters. The Rotters tried to use their aura to decay the fire but couldn't, and the tiny fireballs easily passed through the aura unhindered. While the damage of each of the tiny purplish-black fireballs wasn't too great the Rotters were visibly hindered by them, reducing their already slow speed even further.
While Kirin was using the tiny purplish-black fireballs to slow them down, Nuvahn was storing more power into each wind blade and increased the area that it spanned. This made him use up far more of his ki but now the wind blade could effectively harm all the Rotters at once. However increasing the area of effect also reduced the damage.
Even all this couldn't stop the Rotters, although their speed was reduced, the damage they were taking wasn't very high and they would soon be upon the duo.
While the Rotters advanced slowly, with only pure magic attacks always having an effect on them, there were not a high number of enemies that could defeat them. Even most users ended up taking a non-magic class and if they came down here they would almost instantly die to the Rotters. Thus it was no surprise that the party was having a great amount of trouble with them.
Zaran frowned as he watched the fight between Kirin, Nuvahn and the Rotters. Due to the higher number of Rotters, Nuvahn and Kirin had to constantly switch targets to hold them down, yet still they had to retreat a few steps every so often.
Let's try arrows, it just might work. Zaran thought as he quickly stowed away his greatsword and changed it for the longbow and quiver. "Buzzard shot!" Zaran yelled, ki spiraling around the nocked arrow at incredible speed. He pulled the bowstring all the way back and released the arrow, which shot out of the bow like a lightning bolt almost instantly piercing one of the Rotters. Yet the arrow didn't exit the Rotter and almost immediately turned into dust as it pierced the Rotter itself.
"That did 60 damage!" Nuvahn yelled, quickly confirming that Zaran's test had not been fruitless.
Zaran instantly nocked another arrow and fired another 'Buzzard shot'. With his current ki he could only use it twelve times before his ki would run out. In battle Zaran only had a ki and mana regeneration of 1 per 5 seconds, which increased to 15 per 5 seconds outside of combat.
This was done so that one would be forced to make the proper strategic choices in battle as mana and ki had to be spend wisely. If the creators had given more mana or ki regeneration then surely low end skills could save your life a lot more but that would not allow one to be more skilled in the game.
The creators off the game had through the gods' influence been forced to create a game that largely depended on skill and ability. This could be seen through the skill leveling system as well as the skill ranking system. Some very intricate skills that required a high level of skill to execute but were very useless in battle were rated very poorly while easy skills with a high effectiveness in battle could be rated very highly.
Moreover people were not restricted in naming their spells, while one person could for example name a skill 'flash fire' other people could do it too. The only restriction was that it had to be rather similar to the most proficient skill with the same name. Even though a skill could initially be as low as D-rank, if one's comprehension of the skill rose and he added additional effects on it, like Zaran had done with 'flash fire' through creating the conical shape, the rating of the skill could increase over time.
Nevertheless, Zaran wasn't worried about the amount of ki his every shot spent as he was just wasting time for his mana to recover. Only when his ki and mana along with Nuvahn's and Kirin's ki and mana had run out would he start to worry. Yet seeing the current situation in the battle Zaran seemed to have no need to worry. Both Kirin and Nuvahn's resource pools were still 75% full after using their abilities a few times.
Buzzard shot after Buzzard shot left Zaran's longbow and a minute later all his ki had been depleted. In the meantime all Rotters had been pierced by at least two arrows along with Kirin and Nuvahn's hits and their health had been dropped down to 30%.
Nuvahn send another wind slash to the Rotters and one of them had his health drop down to below 200 hit points. At the moment that the Rotter's health reached below 200 hit points it started to release a gurgling sound and it raised its head to a 45° angle. A brownish-yellow projectile shot out of it and flew at the group in high speed.
"Not good! Nuvahn, Kirin back off!" Zaran yelled upon seeing this projectile. He wasn't sure what it was but as it was a never seen before attack Zaran was sure that this was an attack that the Rotters only unleashed if their health started to drop low. Before he had beaten the Rotters before they had dropped low enough to use it so it couldn't be anything as an enraged state attack.
Nuvahn and Kirin swiftly jumped backwards to evade the projectile, however the Rotter had already predicted that they would move backwards and had overshot his projectile. The projectile exploded with a loud bang and the brown gas that surrounded the Rotters started to occupy the surrounding area. Both Kirin and Nuvahn were enveloped by this gas and were quickly losing health.
Nuvahn quickly shoved Kirin out of the gas and backstepped out of it himself at the same time, his health already dropping critically low just by being enveloped by the gas for a mere two seconds. "That was close." Nuvahn said as he panted heavily while looking at his body.
His body had visibly aged in a mere two seconds and now he looked like a fifty year old harpie instead of a 20 year old. "We can't take another one of those. We need to finish them off before they hit critical health. Zaran can you use your flash fire yet to finish them off?"
Kirin had visibly aged as well and her fur had taken on a grey colour and she looked as every step was taking all the strength she could muster.
Zaran nodded, and looked at the gas. It enveloped the majority of the sidewalk but there was still space for him to slip through. He would need to both run forward and start casting Flash fire to be able to use it in time. While their advance was slow, Zaran didn't want to give the Rotter that had just shot the projectile too much time as he might use it again if given enough time.
A fiery red aura started to pulsate around Zaran as he ran forward, slipping through the narrow passage between the gas and the sewers' walls. As soon as he was in front of the Rotters he released his flash fire and the air around Zaran ignited with a loud bang. The Rotters were instantly burned to a crisp and their bodies turned to ashes, only to leave a small brown pouch behind.
Four yellow waves of light descended unto Zaran and one descended on Nuvahn. Zaran had reached level 20 now while Nuvahn had advanced to level 26. Still Nuvahn had received a lot less experience in the last fight.
"I'm glad you almost caught up. I only got 20% of the total exp now..." Nuvahn said dejectedly.
"Do more damage then... the game obviously doesn't see you as an expert." Zaran jokingly replied.
Nuvahn glared at Zaran but then released a sigh afterwards. What Zaran had said wasn't wrong, the experience system in Myth Online was very harsh to those who teamed up with an expert. While he wasn't bad himself, how could he match up to someone like Zaran who had had a massive amount of time to develop himself and was a training nut on top of that.
Compared to Zaran, Nuvahn just paled in comparison. The only thing he could do was put in a lot more effort and even so Zaran was a natural genius. Combining that with the training nut he was, even if Nuvahn was able to put in twice as much effort as Zaran he would still be far from Zaran's equal.
The experience system in Myth Online was a little different compared to other games. It did not only look at total damage dealt to distribute experience but also at the level of the character. Lower level characters gained more exp by beating a harder character, but if a low leveled character was in a group compromised of higher leveled players and still did equal or more damage compared to them while the group of higher leveled players had fully contributed to the fight at the maximum of their effort, the lower leveled character would be given a tremendous amount of exp in comparison to the higher leveled player.
So for example a level 10 character that teamed up with a level 20 character was only expected to do less than 1/4th of the total amount of damage and would still receive 50% of the experience if he did all he could. However if the level 10 did more damage than the expected amount of damage his exp gain would start to rise. Thus currently Zaran was still gaining a lot of hp as he was still considered weaker by default. Once he caught up, the system would start to work in his disadvantage as he would be expected to deal far more damage than Nuvahn when taking in account his stats, skills and equipment. With the system being this way a strong player could quickly level and catch up to others, but would still always be pressured to perform to the max of his abilities in a group or otherwise he would start to lose out on a lot of experience.
However even with all that the system was somewhat generous as there was a sufficient margin for error. So while players were still compelled to play at the best of their abilities, they didn't need to concentrate at a full 100% all of the time and at 90% concentration they could still net the full rewards. While the general populace wasn't aware of this system, the advertisements for the game did mention that being highly skilled in battle netted additional rewards.
Zaran picked up the loot and disappointment filled his face. Each pouch only contained a few silver each without any additional drops. Such a small reward for such a dangerous enemy.
Nuvahn noticed Zaran's expression and calmly replied. "It was the same with the last two. The drops don't match the difficulty. If we didn't have any magic skills we would not be able to beat them, so a few silver definitely is not a fair reward."
"Yeah... there's something wrong with this. Regardless I think we now know what happened to the guards." Zaran said. "Still I don't like this. How did they all turn into those things? And... what about the other guards? A few platoons are missing... I really hope they didn't all turn into Rotters."
"We will see soon enough. Should we rest for a bit to let you recover mana or should we continue straight away?"
"I think we should continue, the noise of the fight will have attracted more of those things and we can't afford a fight just yet." Zaran said as he checked upon Nuvahn and Kirin's condition. Both had recovered some of their youth and health again but they still needed more time to completely recover from the gas's effect. "Let's pass the corridor quickly and advance straight on."
All the Rotters had been coming from this particular corridor so Zaran guessed that the next batch would come from the same area. If they just advanced onwards they might be able to avoid others for a while.
Zaran picked up Kirin and carried her, while Cindarrah took her spot on his head again. Their speed was slow but they still advanced at a reasonable pace.
On passing the corridor Zaran looked at it and noticed that a large group of Rotters consisting out of at least 20 individuals was heading their way.
"Faster!" Zaran said, his voice filled with urgency. "There's at least 20 coming our way!" Zaran quickly sped up his pace and ran forward, trying to put as much distance between them and that corridor as soon as possible!
Nuvahn's eyes widened in surprise as he too looked in the corridor and then picked up his pace as well.
A minute later they happened upon a three way intersection. Zaran cursed as he checked both the left and right way and looked back. A multitude of Rotters could be found in every corridor. He muttered a few curses under his breath and looked at Nuvahn's and Kirin's condition. Both were almost back in prime condition.
"We'll have to fight our way past a group!" Zaran said while trying to see which corridor would give the highest chance of survival. But almost every single corridor had the same amount of Rotters and whats more they had no idea what would happen if they got so lucky as to pass them.
Nuvahn noticed that Zaran was milling over the possible options. "Why don't we just try to force our way back from where we came? Isn't that our best option?"
"Most likely but we don't know if more came out of that corridor we passed."
The Rotters crept ever closer to the group and they had to make a decision now or it would be too late!
Just as Zaran was going to explain their course of action the wall behind them lit up and disappeared, revealing a small dead end corridor covered in a horrifyingly dark aura.
A man that was literally skin over bone covered in Virul's mage's guild robes beckoned to them. "Quick! Enter! There's no time to explain!"
Zaran nudged to Nuvahn with his head telling him to enter the corridor. Nuvahn nodded in response and both of them quickly entered the corridor. As soon as both of them entered the wall that had disappeared reappeared and firmly sealed this area from the outside...