The dark ball of mist hung above the valley with mana swirling around it in a spiral. Bolts of arcane mana were condensed by the dozen every single second, falling on the many people around the valley as they tried to attack the person hidden by the mist.
Jake, who stood within, had his aim set. Arcane Powershot had been charged to the maximum, and the three bolts hanging above him ready. He released the three bolts down towards the healer and leader of the ambush, these three far more powerful than those prior.
The healer swiftly reacted once he saw the bolts exit the mist and poured more mana into his barrier. The people around him also helped as the three bolts arrived. A massive explosion was kicked up, sending soil and dust flying everywhere but didn’t do much damage to the barrier itself. Not that the blow was meant to… it was just a smokescreen.
It was simply there to make the healer feel a slight moment of relief before the true blow arrived.
For this second attack… the healer didn’t react in time.
The entire ball of black mist exploded, the mist scattered by the sheer release of power from the Arcane Powershot. Arcane energy burned in the wake of the arrow as it tore through the air. Before anyone below could react, it reached the barrier of the healer. The man only managed to open his eyes in fright as his defenses shattered like broken glass, and the arrow pierced straight through his chest. Usually, Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter couldn’t pierce magic barriers… except Jake had come far in his understanding, especially of humans. He viewed mana as simply an extension of the body, so why the hell couldn’t his arrow pierce a barrier constructed of it? The skill had clearly agreed with his conclusion.
Once the arrow hit, there was no grand explosion, but simply the man being sent smashing into the ground. Yet, at that very last moment, something activated as his body began glowing. Jake recognized it as some kind of life-saving skill. Perhaps one to nullify some damage or ensure he couldn’t die to one attack… Jake didn’t know, but what he did know was that the healer wasn’t ready for the follow-up.
Because before he even saw the arrow land, he fired the next one. This one wasn’t simple either. The two orbs of power on his bow began channeling all their energy as an arrow condensed on the string as Jake prepared to make the area into a Scorched Plain.
He fired the second arrow only two seconds after the first, not leaving the healer any time to prepare. Seeing their leader suddenly be downed had already created even more panic and doubt, meaning no one reacted adequately.
Jake released the arrow and, at the same time, used One Step Mile. While Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter was his most powerful attack by a fair margin and archery was his best tool of combat, his greatest damage per second didn’t come from ranged attack.
It naturally came from Touch of the Malefic Viper.
The large arrow infused with all the energy from his bow landed just before Jake did. The Scorched Plains effect activated as it exploded, sending a wave of destructive arcane energy burning through the area; all the blue grass it encountered turned to nothing.
Jake landed amidst this explosion, the arcane energy washing over him. He took it unbothered as his scales blocked what little damage it could usually do to him. Out of everyone in existence, Jake was the one with the most natural resistance to his own affinity, meaning he could tank it pretty damn well. Far better than the other humans.
His target within the inferno of arcane energy was the healer. The man was still alive, but that would soon change. The guy was still thrown off and semi-conscious as Jake jumped him. The other party failed to respond as Jake smashed his face into the ground, and his hand began glowing green. Jake pressed down with all his might as power swirled around him, the arcane energy still dominating the environment.
Jake squeezed his hand tighter and tighter as he pressed down until eventually, Touch of the Malefic Viper had weakened the skull enough. With a final push, he completely squashed the head of the formerly oh-so-confident leader of the independent factions.
The already damaged man didn’t survive.
*You have slain [Human - lvl 130 / Auspicious Mind Mender – lvl 108 / Pioneering City Lord of Earth – lvl 152]*
Jake stood up but didn’t continue his attack. After killing the man, he felt far more relaxed than before as his rage began to subside. He closed his eyes for a brief moment, focusing on getting his emotions under control. Jake was fully aware that this had been another case of his emotions – specifically anger – going wild, no doubt due to his Bloodline. Jake just really didn't like being called a slave. Luckily, the guy was dead, and Jake could now relax as he didn’t feel the need to murder anyone anymore. Instead, he simply assessed the situation
Everyone in the area was hit by the Scorched Plains, and the moment the destructive force that was his affinity began destroying someone, they reacted with fright, activating their Hunter Insignia to escape. In fact, while Jake’s attack did do significant damage, he reckoned nearly everyone should be able to survive and many even block it as the Scorched Plains attack was more about widespread destruction than killing singular foes. However, based on everything else Jake had shown so far, those that were hit chose to react with caution, preferring to forfeit rewards over death.
It was a wise choice and one Jake would now implore them all to take. As the effect from the Scorched Plains attack subsided, everyone saw where Jake was standing and the corpse beneath him. Once Jake felt their gazes upon him, he knew this entire ‘fight’ was truly over.
Flashes of light appeared all around the valley as Jake looked at the four people he had been solving the puzzle with. His attack earlier had hit not only his enemies but also those within the valley. In fact, the arcane energy had hit anything and everything within the barrier, with even the barrier itself having taken significant damage.
The elemental mage, rogue, and shadow assassin had all managed to handle the blow somewhat. The arcane energy had still left some wounds, but as they weren’t attacked by anything else, they had managed to put up some defensive measures. The same couldn’t be said about the earth mage, who had his armor of stone eroded halfway through and was now trying to reconstruct it and escape.
Jake stared at the man fleeing, having none of that. He raised his bow and fired a quickly charged Arcane Powershot. The arrow landed true, making the armor of stone explode and sending the man tumbling through the air with a large hole in his chest. The earth mage was already heavily injured but hadn’t chosen to leave yet for some reason.
The elemental mage moved to attack and finish off the earth mage, but the man defended himself at the very last moment as he yelled: “We will remember this!”
With those words, he activated his Insignia and disappeared.
Even more flashes appeared all around as people chose to flee. They no doubt feared they would be the next target of an arrow and have their head pierced or something similar, making them unable to flee. Jake noticed that some people did stay behind, all huddled together in a defensive position. He saw around thirty people and saw among them several of the more powerful humans who had been around the healer. None of them had taken any significant damage but had managed to actually display some level of teamwork.
Jake looked over at them as one of the people at the front spoke: “Lord Thayne, please, I believe this is all a misunderstanding.”
Tilting his head, Jake stared at the man as he asked: “In what way am I misunderstanding you trying to trap and kill me within a barrier?”
“Sir, it was not done with the intent to kill, merely to give us grounds for negotiation, we-“
“I don’t give a shit,” Jake shot back. “If you want to negotiate or talk, come up to me like a normal fucking human being. If you want to negotiate from a position of strength, at least make sure you can actually back it up. Oh, and last of all, don’t fucking insult someone you want to negotiate with. I’m no expert, but that doesn’t seem very smart.”
The man looked at Jake as he looked troubled. He didn’t look particularly bothered by the death of the healer but more by the prospect of being forced to leave the Treasure Hunt with more than half of the time to go without any loot.
“What do we have to do to get out of here alive or without having to leave the Hunt?” the man finally asked sensibly. He seemed far less moronic than the healer but cut to the crux of it without trying to justify himself.
“That’s a really good question,” Jake answered with a nod before turning to the three people inside the valley. The elemental mage had already swiped up the loot from the earth mage and now stood with the assassin and rogue. “What do you guys think?”
Jake hadn’t been the only one under ambush. These people had been implicated too, and Jake was to admit he felt a bit bad about it. He hated getting others involved in his own matters without any reason, and this ambush was made with him as the target.
Would the earth mage have maybe done something similar even without Jake’s presence just to steal all the loot? Probably, but Jake couldn’t know for sure. In fact, he had a feeling the guy would have tried to rob it all by himself to not share with anyone, being the greedy moron he was.
“They could start out by apologizing for being such cunts,” the elemental mage yelled. “Who the fuck brings a fucking army to rob one guy? And worse yet, then fail so miserably? That’s just shameful, man.”
Jake smirked beneath his mask as the elemental mage gave him a thumbs up. “Great fucking display, by the way, but ya could have not have hit us with that damn explosion, ya know? Bloody hurt. Also, why is it that weird-ass color?”
“Hey, it is what it is. I didn’t choose the color. Also, I just trusted you guys and gals to know how to block a massive explosion. I’m sorry if my assumption of competence was incorrect,” Jake fired back. He and the elemental mage had thrown more than one dig at each other during their puzzle-solving, and Jake had happy the guy hadn’t changed. People usually started acting weird after seeing Jake fight and kill people. Odd how that works.
The guy with the group of thirty or so didn’t dare interrupt, and from what Jake could detect, the man seemed happy to let the two of them talk, lightening the mood. Jake didn’t doubt the guy would prefer less killing to be going on. He was lucky that Jake didn’t plan on killing anyone, but there was no way he was getting off easy.
“I sincerely do apologize. I do not mean to misdirect blame, but most of us who came here didn’t do so expressly with intent to cause harm but simply to back up an ally. It was ill-advised and a mistake, and I take full responsibility for that. I just want to make it clear that the words of Jakob weren’t spoken for all of us, but were his personal views only,” the man said, it not being certain if he was fully telling the truth or just trying to get out alive. However, Jake chose to bite into one part he probably shouldn’t as it really wasn’t that important.
“Wait, the guy was called Jakob?”
“Yes,” the man answered, a bit uncomfortably.
“Huh. With a C or a K?”
“It was with a K, I believe.” The guy now just looked a bit confused.
Jake nodded, feeling even more justified in the kill. Even if one was with a K, having two Jacob’s would just be confusing for everyone involved.
“Hey, how about that compensation?” the elemental mage suddenly chimed in.
The stand-in leader of the group of independents looked a bit bewildered for a fraction of a moment before he realized what the man meant and nodded. “Naturally, we will compensate you all for this unfortunate situation,” he said, turning specifically to Jake. “We sincerely hope this will not cause a rift between Haven and the independent factions.”
Jake stared at him, not revealing his actual thoughts. I have no fucking idea where any of you are from…
Sure, he knew they were related to cities, but he didn’t know the city names or their locations or anything. So if these people just didn’t come to the World Congress or some other event, he would never recognize them. Well, he could understand that if these people had a lot of their time and power invested in being political leaders, them not being able to participate due to fear of Jake would be a bad thing.
With all that in mind, he gave the guy a chance. He did have to give the guy and everyone else some credit, as when he counted all the floating Insignias around the valley, not a single one was missing. That was very lucky for them because if even a single one was gone, Jake would have made them all leave. He still could, but he had a feeling that pissing off every single one of the independent forces present for a bit of loot wouldn’t be worth it.
Those who attacked him today were probably just part of some fringe group. Haven being a small city in itself, would do best with positive relations with pretty much every faction. At least Miranda had repeatedly claimed this. She insisted that staying what was effectively a neutral force was their biggest strength, and Jake really didn’t want to shatter all her plans.
“Fine. What are you offering?” Jake finally said, seeing the guy visibly sigh with relief – a bit too telegraphed, honestly. The guy clearly wanted Jake to see him be all humble and nice… and to be fair, Jake was totally fine with that.
The guy ended up giving Jake and the three people with him some good stuff. Jake even noticed some of them weren’t from the Treasure Hunt but things from the outside. Primarily he gave Jake herbs he wanted, and the ones behind the other leader even handed stuff over. Jake discovered that there were a whopping four additional city leaders in the group of thirty or so. Upon discovering that, they also coughed up some extra stuff.
Throughout the negotiations that were totally not just extortion, Jake did feel a few glances of hatred and resentment, but he paid them no mind. He had undoubtedly killed comrades of some of those present, and a bit of hate for that was only to be expected. If they didn’t act on it, he wouldn’t fault them.
In the end, the entire ambush situation ended with Jake looting more than seventy dropped Hunter Insignias filled with loot, all of which he collected while the elemental mage and the others did their own totally-not-extortion. Most of those Jake killed or made to leave had very little, except the healer and the guy beside the healer Jake killed. Both of those had some good stuff, and he even had a theory they had hoarded the stuff of others.
After the survivors among the ambushers handed over loot to Jake, the shadow assassin, the elemental mage, and the rogue, did Jake allow them to leave. Only the elemental mage didn’t look very uncomfortable during it all. When they were done, the barrier was also about to dissipate on its own.
“Jakob thought it would be smart to make a barrier that would last for a set amount of time. That would mean no one would be occupied with maintaining it, and he said that even if things took a bad turn, we could just stay defensive and escape when it went down… yeah that turned out well,” the enemy leader said, reminding Jake of how much confusion he had saved the world from with the whole Jakob-Jacob-thing.
The guy finished it all off with a bow as he prepared to lead people away. “Thank you for allowing us amnesty… and I hope we can work together again in the future. My name is Ja-“
“I don’t care,” Jake cut him off. “Talk to Miranda about all that stuff, not me. Now fuck off, we got loot to distribute.”
With those words, Jake turned back to the three people he had solved the puzzle with, ignoring the city leaders behind him. They still had the actual loot from the Rubik’s cube to distribute.