Miranda felt a moment of distress as the vampire rose and its aura spread out the gate and into the hallway. Sylphie didn’t seem to be that on edge, but the same couldn’t be said about the people behind Sven. Sven himself didn’t display anything but just drew his weapon and yelled for his party to get ready.
She also took this yell as her wake-up call and waved her hand as magic circles began being summoned around her. She doubted she could do much direct damage to the Count of Blood as the Viscounts already outmatched her, but she would do her best nevertheless.
Carmen threw a glance towards Sylphie, and without further ado, the two made their move. Sven followed, wielding a large two-handed sword, with his four party members also doing their own thing. One summoned runic lines that appeared on the armor of Sven and Carmen; another began summoning root spears, the third charged with Sven, wielding a sword and shield, while the last one was the most impressive, at least visually. He roared as his body slowly began morphing, and before long, a large armored bear had joined the battle.
The Count of Blood was a large male who summoned armor of bone upon seeing the charging humans, as a black spear also appeared in his hands. Red energy exploded out of his body. Miranda had to defend herself as she began doing what she thought was most valuable: creating a barrier between her and the two casters in Sven’s party. Not one that could hold back the vampire for long, just long enough for them to react.
Magic filled the air, and the two sides clashed, a powerful vampire on one side and a group of humans on the other. Oh, and a green bird that fast proved to be one of the most dangerous things in the room.
Sven could only chip off parts of the bone armor with his swings, making it crack and sometimes knock pieces off, but Sylphie? Sylphie did a fly-by and cut up the vampire’s back, sending blood flying as the armor failed to block her glowing green wing. How the hell the bird had such potent attack power Miranda truly didn’t understand.
The bear proved to be impressive-looking but unable to do much. All it did was try and pre-occupy the vampire by holding onto parts of it, or sometimes land mostly-ineffective blows with its large paws. On the other hand, the bear-man did prove to be very durable, but the vampire handled that by simply not attacking it.
Besides Sylphie, Carmen was the one who found the most success. Her glowing fists cracked the bone armor with every hit, and with her far higher rate of attack, she was by far the main danger of their entire group. Fortunately, the vampire seemed not to have much attacking power besides the spear – which he did wield skillfully, but even so, the human side did take quite a few injuries.
Miranda worked on her barrier while the wood mage fired off wooden spears, and after seeing they did nothing, switching to summoning roots to try and restrain the vampire and limit its movements. The rune caster was some kind of healer and used his magic to temporarily make Carmen or Sven stronger while also creating runes that summoned shields.
Overall their group was balanced, and it became a battle of attrition. The vampire kept yelling horrible dialogue about how it would drink their blood and feast on their flesh, but from what Miranda had learned, that was just par for the course.
She was beginning to feel confident, even if the vampire healed any wounds they inflicted, and the wounds accumulated on primarily the bear, Sven, and the woman with a sword and shield. On a side note, Sven had attempted to use the Stake but found that it failed to penetrate the bone armor and only made the vampire even madder. After that happened, she feared for a moment they would have to flee and hopefully find Jake to help them, but that didn’t seem neccesar-
The Count of Blood screamed as his entire body exploded in white light, sending all the melee fighters back and interrupted the spellcasting of everyone as Miranda felt her magic be disrupted. Then, she saw the vampire raise its spear as it stabbed it into the ground.
“Forest of Bones.”
Miranda barely had time to react before the ground erupted as thousands of spear-like bones shot up from below. The barrier she had made also protected downwards, but only barely. She dodged back but still ended up being speared through the thigh and an arm, making her yelp in pain and lose her concentration.
Those who had been close to the Count and were blasted back now faced angled spears of bone aimed towards their backs. Sven turned in mid-air blocking with the flat side of his large blade but still took a few minor stabs in his chest.
Carmen didn’t even bother with it all as she was speared from behind, and the bones barely penetrated a few centimeters, allowing her to quickly shoot back towards the vampire, her wounds visibly healing. The one who handled it the worst was the woman with a shield. She had already been wounded by a spear earlier and now failed to adapt as she was impaled through the chest.
Miranda turned and saw that the runic healer had also been stabbed by a spear and was trying to get to healing again. The wood mage had handled it well by shooting vines up from the ground himself, making him be shot up into the air.
The bear was the one that took the most spears due it its size, and the man had now reverted back to his human form, retreating towards the back wall as blood dripped from dozens of wounds on his body.
This isn’t good, Miranda thought, gritting her teeth. The only one unaffected by the attack had been Sylphie, courtesy of her small form and being airborne.
Would she have to call Jake? Could Sylphie do it?
Carmen clashed with the vampire again, but the vampire appeared stronger than before. The armor of bone began changing into a smaller version, and the spear moves became faster and even more deadly.
As Miranda was seriously considering if they should retreat, Carmen jumped back and quickly glanced around the room. Sven had also gotten up and looked Carmen’s way. He only looked at her for a moment before he nodded.
The bear-man didn’t have to be told that twice as he began running out of the chamber, while the wood mage summoned roots to extract the damaged shield-wielding woman.
But… two ‘people’ didn’t retreat. One of them was Sylphie and the other one Carmen.
Miranda was practically pushed by Sven to leave and exit the chamber, leaving the bird and woman behind. She frowned but didn’t resist as she knew she truly couldn’t do much. Carmen kept clashing with the vampire during this time while Sylphie hung back.
“What are we going to do?” Miranda asked once outside. She could still see inside the room due to a mark she had left on her magic circle, and all she saw was Carmen still fighting the Count on her own. Sven was working on closing the gate and securing it using his sword as he turned and looked oddly at her.
“I don’t follow?”
“Shouldn’t we do something? The Count proved stronger than expected, and-“
“Ah, Ms. Wells, you worry needlessly,” Sven chuckled, the rest of his party also shaking their heads. “I am most certain Carmen is more than happy about the state of that room. The only one I am worried about would be the bird, but it seems to be able to handle itself.”
Inside the room, Carmen stared at the Count of Blood. Sylphie looked at her, and she threw the hawk a glance. She seemed to understand and made a small “ree” as Carmen smiled and got to work. The Count was weakened and about to be out of resources, so it was time to finish the fight. As Carmen prepared, Sylphie flew towards the Count and began flying around it as a whirlwind was kicked up, keeping the Count locked in place.
Carmen knelt down and placed both her fists on the ground as she spoke.
A pulse went through the ground as an odd aura overtook the entire chamber.
“Regalia of the Fallen.”
A golden set of phantasmal, almost ghostly, armor covered her body in a veil of energy.
“Runes of the Valkyrie.”
Runes appeared all over her arms as she felt an influx of power in them, and their resilience significantly increased.
“Exaltation of Valhal.”
Behind her, an illusory hall full of feasting warriors appeared as they all seemed to lift a mug in her glory. Carmen felt like she suddenly got a huge boost to her stamina as the energy moving through her body sped up.
A see-through woman wielding a large axe floated above for a fraction of a second before it slowly descended into her body, buffing up all her physical attributes.
All the energy in her body began burning as her body became significantly more powerful. Her skin started flaking, and blood dripping out of cracks on her skin. For but a moment, she was at her strongest. All of the skills came together and boosted her at once, pushing her incredibly durable body and healing ability to its absolute limits.
With all those skills active at once, she couldn’t fight for long… which is why she would finish it quickly.
She drew back her fist as energy began revolving around it. The Count looked out of the green whirlwind caused by Sylphie as it crossed its arms in front of its chest just in time.
“Fist of Ragnorok.”
In a flash, Carmen appeared before the Count of Blood as she punched.
Her fist literally exploded as she struck the vampire. Two bone-covered arms flew into the air as her fist penetrated through the chest of the vampire, blasting it back towards the back wall of the chamber.
Carmen kneeled down on the ground with only a stump left where her arm had been. Yet, she was only grinning. Sure, the vampire was still alive, but…
A green flash appeared as the vampire that was already embedded in the wall had its head separated from its neck as a green figure flew by. A notification confirmed the kill, and Carmen just laughed as Sylphie claimed the items dropped.
That is when Carmen remembered something else she had forgotten… she had promised that Sylphie would get the loot from the next boss besides the Mark of Blood… considering this one didn’t even drop a Mark of Blood…
Carmen began laughing even more as she was already imagining Sven’s reaction.
Jacob had made many decisions he now doubted were wise, and the one he had made that day was one of them. With Jake having obtained three keys for Haven and the City Lord working with Valhal to get another… they needed to ensure the last one. And right now, or at least very soon, Jake would be headed their way.
They needed to delay him. The issue was… who or what could delay the Progenitor of Earth? The likely most powerful person on the planet? Jacob had thought about this for a long time in case things went south… so he had made contact with someone else who was a wild card of their newly initiated universe. His only purpose was to delay Jake, and as far as Jacob was aware, it wasn’t like his friend would come to harm since he seriously doubted anything would come out of their fight.
At least Jacob didn’t believe so… but had to admit that out of the many people on Earth he had difficulty comprehending, Eron was perhaps the biggest mystery to him.
There were many unknowns in this choice, but he had to take some risks. While he did consider Jake a close friend, he still valued his responsibility to the Church over personal relations. He simply had too much responsibility on his shoulders to make decisions based on emotions alone.
This was also why he had made an alliance not with Haven but the Noboru clan. Perhaps the clan had realized that with the Court of Shadows firmly on the side of Haven and Valhal working with their City Lord, they also needed allies.
The Holy Church reciprocated. Jacob saw a lot of value in nurturing the relationship between the Church and the clan. It was work, not personal business. With the Church already having one and now getting another, and the Noboru clan close to claiming their third… it would mean the clan and the Church having five.
OF course, all of that depended on Eron’s ability to delay Jake long enough for Bertram and the others to finish off the Count of Blood.
There was one other thing that irked him, though. It had been two full days of the Treasure Hunt by now, and outside of the first hour or so of the Treasure Hunt, he had heard nothing of the undead faction at all. Considering the antagonistic relationship between the Holy Church and the undead, this was a major cause for concern…
Jacob sighed as he once more entered meditation to try and discover what would happen the moment all nine keys came together. One thing was for certain, though.
He had talked to many individuals from the Holy Church and done a lot of research before entering the Treasure Hunt. General investigation into system events and the general tendencies and stages they went through and based on all that research, Jacob was confident of one thing:
This entire Treasure Hunt was being completed far faster than was usual.
Jake used One Step Mile through the plains as he approached the tower in the distance. There were three unkilled Counts, and Jake was going for the closest tower to the one he had just done. He had been told that the Holy Church had already claimed one, and considering how a fourth key had appeared in his inventory halfway to this next tower, he wasn’t going to play nice. He just needed one more, and he would do all he could to get it.
He made it inside and sprinted through the halls, frowning a bit as he encountered no one on any of the lower floors. His frown only grew the further up he got until he finally detected a presence.
A single man stood within a large hallway with a metal gate at the end. Jake instantly saw that the gate wasn’t there naturally but placed. It had been almost welded to the walls, and with his sphere, he saw enough to realize it would require a bit of burning with Alchemical Flame to get it free. Or a lot of Arcane Powershots.
But… that wasn’t the most important right now. It was the man who stood in front of the gate. The man smiled as he saw Jake.
“We meet again, Mr. Thayne. I must admit, It is good that we met again so soon. It always gladdens me to see sparks grow and rekindle.”
It was that madman Eron.