At the edges of Yalsten, destruction was unfolding. The equilibrium of space that had been formed for so long was now broken, and the world began collapsing in upon itself. Earth and soil were turned to nothingness as everything just began shrinking, any matter being cut up endlessly.
It progressed fast, and a few people who had not been close to the Mistless Plains found themselves with no choice but to leave the Treasure Hunt or run from the world’s destruction. But it was only a few, for the vast majority had already gathered, ready to face the Cursed Monarch.
Inside a maze of metal, a magic circle suddenly stopped functioning. The caster had disappeared, and all connections cut. A few seconds passed until suddenly a hand emerged from the ground that appeared to turn liquid.
The man dragged himself out as he stood up, covered in green water.
Eron frowned as he saw the quest but didn’t decide to leave. Instead, he walked casually out of the Vault, making a mental note to avoid Haven for the time being, or at least until he came up with a valid countermeasure. Issues for later, because he saw no reason to miss out on contributions against this final enemy calling himself a Cursed Monarch.
“So, you know guys have any tactics in mind?” Jake asked the people around him.
“Stay the fuck back,” Christen said, getting nods from Neil and the rest of her party.
“Good call, one I think I will follow,” Jake said as he looked around, finding a spot in the distance. He felt energy gather as the Cursed Monarch was slowly coming to life. All the mist from Yalsten was gathering at the coffin that was now visible as the spire had been broken.
Jake took flight as he headed off, getting a few odd glances on the way, but nothing that bothered him.
He was an archer after all, right? Hence he was looking for a good vantage point.
A pulse went through the entire Treasure Hunt. Then, a few seconds later, a second one. It soon began rhythmically beating like a heart as an ancient being that had slumbered for an untold number of years awakened.
Yalsten was now nearly entirely devoid of mist, except for a few dozen meters right around the coffin and the sky far above. Then, as if appearing from nothing, figures suddenly stepped out of the mist. Hundreds of beings resembling the Reanimated Armors were the first to become visible, all of them pulsing with power.
[Cursed Soldier – lvl 135]
The mist around the coffin slowly dispersed, revealing a single cloaked figure. A black crown adorned his head, a cloak dark as night behind him, and piercing eyes that were entirely red beside the deep red irises. He was over two and a half meters tall, but his form was willow and thin, his eyes sunken, and his appearance was decripit. Around him stood five heavily armored beings, one with a sword, another a spear, a third a bow, a fourth a staff, and the fifth with two floating orbs revolving around it.
It was clearly a party setup, the five of them all called Royal Guards.
[Cursed Royal Guard– lvl 160]
The final one was naturally the cloaked figure. A being that absolutely pulsed power as he simply stood there. The vampire looked up towards the sky before releasing his aura, truly making himself known as the Cursed Monarch.
[Cursed Monarch – lvl ???]
Most everyone present was intimidated by the absolute power of the Cursed Monarch, yet they also breathed out a sigh of relief because while the boss was powerful…
Then he was still D-grade.
Jake observed it all happen from far away. The boss and those around him didn’t move to attack right away but seemed to need to collect themselves after just awakening. Or was it that none of them were truly intelligent anymore?
The primary evidence for this being the case was the Cursed Monarch not yelling out something like “I HAVE RETURNED TO FEAST ON YOUR BLOOD” or another likewise cringy way of announcing himself.
What talked against it was him looking towards the sky. It was a needless action unless he detected something up there, and Jake didn’t think that was the case. If that was true… was it simply that the Cursed Monarch didn’t view any of them as a threat?
No, that couldn’t be it either… for at least he and a handful of others sure as fuck were.
Jake held out his hand as he began his own true preparations now that he saw them. A part of him hoped to just get an easy opening shot, but it appeared that wasn’t going to happen. The first to make a move wasn’t Jake or the Sword Saint or even the Holy Church, but a single person.
Casper flew up and opened his arms wide as he regarded the army of vampires, the Curse of Yalsten burning within him. The Cursed Monarch looked up at him with blank eyes before the undead pointed down at the resurrected king.
Then… both of them froze. Jake had not been informed much of what was going to happen, courtesy of him being stuck in a goddamn water level, but it very fast became clear these people had planned more than just coming together and attacking.
Whatever Casper had done had frozen the entire group of cursed vampires. Behind him, Jake saw two giant pillars of power ascend towards the sky, one of them a mix of white and black, exuding a ghastly color and powerful affinity of death, while the other was a pillar of holy light.
It was quite the deadly combo when mixed Jake came to learn, as two huge blasts released by rituals with hundreds behind them descended on the group of frozen vampires. Or… at least they looked immovable - for, at the very last moment, Jake saw the Monarch release a faint pulse before the explosion engulfed the army.
An explosion more powerful than anything Jake had ever caused ravaged the Mistless Plains as the powers of death and holy light mixed, not much different than Jake’s Corrupted Mooncore back in the day against the King of the Forest. It worked in the same vein with two very much opposing concepts mixing to create something more powerful than the sum of their parts.
Jake heard cheers from below but knew it was premature. At the very next moment, the Monarch moved. The remnants of the explosion were parted by a screen of red light that cut across the plains and directly into the camp of the Holy Church. Barriers activated but shattered like wet paper before the attack, instantly killing a dozen or so members of the Church.
Another wave was released towards the undead, but they were prepared and managed to avoid losing anyone. A third then came, aimed towards the campsite of the Noboru Clan. This one wasn’t dodged.
An old man stepped in front of the group from the clan, them having not made any barrier in preparation. He waved his blade as a blade of water appeared and was shot towards the deep red slice of pure blood power. It didn’t crash with it or enter a contest of strength. Instead, it subtly hit the side of the wave and almost seemed to be absorbed into it as it guided it in its path – making it curve slightly.
It completely missed the old man and the camp, none of them even looking worried as they charged up some kind of magical ritual themselves. It felt and looked far weaker than whatever the undead and Church had made – and even weaker than the second magic ritual the Church were cooking up hidden away behind a hill.
As the dust settled around the Cursed Monarch, his undamaged form was revealed along with the Royal Guards and the closest soldiers. Jake did a quick headcount and noticed over a hundred Cursed Soldiers were gone, and the Royal Guards had clearly expended some resources too.
They had lost many Cursed Soldiers right off the bat, and hopefully… one Royal Guard.
For while Jake had been an onlooker so far, that didn’t mean he hadn’t been preparing. The Cursed Monarch had turned his attention to the one person who had blocked his blow. Five Royal Guards stood around him, three of which were of the fighter variety, while two were casters.
Jake aimed for the one with the staff, as it gave him healer vibes. The show earlier had given him ample time to prepare an Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter – formed using his knowledge of vampires and the cursed golems as the basis – and charge a full-power Arcane Powershot.
It was tight on time to get everything ready, but he managed to without pulling out any new tricks. The enemy hadn’t noticed him yet when he released his attack, too many other people and sources of potential danger around the plains.
Jake had shot from the balcony of a building nearly fifty kilometers away from the Mistless Plains. It tore through Yalsten, the unstable space breaking and cracking in its wake from the destructive arcane power. Reality rebuilt itself nearly instantly again as the arrow passed by, but even so, it proved that both that space was unstable… and how Jake’s shot was damn powerful. More powerful than any he had released before.
Steady Shot boosted his perception, which boosted his archery, which boosted everything related to archery. It made the arrow fly fast and hit harder – hard enough for the Royal Guard to not notice before it was too late.
Or, it did notice… but Jake was already ready as he drew the string of his bow. When it was taut, he felt the world slow down, and at that moment, he used Gaze of the Apex Hunter on not only the healer but all five Royal Guards.
At the same time, arcane mana swirled around him far faster than ever before - at least from an outside point of view. To Jake, he did as always as he manipulated the energy to charge up Arcane Powershot, but with his perception of time slowed down, it meant his actual manipulation was faster in reality.
Physical movements were limited by this slowdown, making Jake unable to move his limbs as he wanted, but mana was something entirely different. The speed at which mana moved and how fast Jake could manipulate it was primarily limited by three things: One, Jake’s own skill at manipulating it, two, his ability to impose his control – reliant on the willpower stat – and finally, Jake’s own durability both mentally and physically. There were a few other minor details and contributing factors, and time did sure affect him still, but compared to before, his Arcane Powershot was charged approximately three times faster. With practice, Jake reckoned he could improve it even more.
Ultimately, this meant that Jake already had another two Arcane Powershots in mid-air just before the arrow hit his target, all of them charged for only a single second, but all still packing potent power.
The frozen Royal Guard that was his target still managed to muster some response. An entirely white barrier appeared around the Guard as well as the vampire’s comrades. It was hastily constructed and, needless to say, not enough.
Like glass, it shattered as the Guard was hit by Arrow of the Ambitious Hunter, sending it tumbling back from the impact. Its comrades still stood frozen as the Monarch turned and looked Jake’s way. The Monarch began moving, but Jake smiled.
You stop too.
Gaze of the Apex Hunter activated as Jake felt himself pierce into the soul of the Monarch, a soul even more powerful than all of the Royal Guards put together. Yet the Cursed Monarch still froze, unable to resist the skill powered by his increased perception. The big boss vampire still managed to break free in only half a second, but it was enough for a second Arcane Powershot to hit the healer Guard.
The first arrow had merely sunk into the body of the healer, its effects serving to not only damage it but severely hamper the natural regeneration of vampires. The second arrow hit the healer in the chest, blasting a palm-sized hole through it as the vampire was sent flying even further away – right in the direction of two people in particular.
Black lightning struck from above as a powerful magic circle activated with intense curse energy at the healer’s landing spot. Caleb and Casper both struck together as the healer was blasted even further. His brother had landed with his staff and smashed the healer into the ground, and spinning his staff in the air, he smashed the vampire in the side, sending it flying even further away from the Monarch and the four other Royal Guards.
The other vampires tried to come and help, but only Caleb was there. He dodged back as another attack from the Monarch arrived, his entire body turning into black lightning. However, the power difference was too high as Caleb still took a nasty cut on his shoulder just before he transformed and retreated.
Ranged attack began raining down on the healer as Jake fired towards the Monarch and Royal Guards but found his arrows blocked by the Monarch, who had also blocked his third Arcane Powershot orginally aimed for the healer. Even then, bullets, bolts of all elements, spears, beams of light, over a hundred attacks descended on the already heavily damaged healer as the Royal Guard still managed to form a barrier.
The armor of the Royal Guard was broken now, revealing clear female features and a completely blank face, not showing any emotions or even that she was so hurt. Her one arm was dangling, the wounds not healing as they should due to Jake’s arrow and poison combined with the black lightning and curse. One had to remember she and everyone else were also still affected by whatever magic Casper had activated in the start.
Jake knew he didn’t need to do anything more to the healer himself as he just focused on distracting the Monarch a bit longer. The boss-level vampire stood there, and Jake let his own aura flare-up to attract attention. The Monarch didn’t strike him as truly intelligent based on how he reacted, and it proved to be correct as the vampire clearly focused a lot more on powerful foes than making the smart choice of trying to save the healer vampire.
As for how Jake knew he didn’t need to do anything more? Because a second later, the barrier around her was shattered as a woman smashed it apart with her fist. Carmen moved forward and punched the vampire in the stomach, sending it flying upwards. A green dart of pure death came from behind the pugilist, and in a fly-by as fast as Caleb’s lightning, severed the head of the vampire.
Back in the center of the plains around Monarch and Royal Guards, the Cursed Soldiers had begun finally waking up and looking about to notice the enemies in the distance. They began running amok, each of them as powerful as some of the strongest Ekilmares around. They would surely be powerful foes… except they were severely outnumbered and outmatched. The best Earth had to offer, bar a few people, were present in these plains.
From the start of the fight, Jake had a feeling that this stage was inherently unfair. The vampire Monarch was incredibly powerful, the strongest foe Jake had ever seen. Each of the Royal Guards was as strong as a Count of Blood too.
All of this is to say that It was truly unfair… for the vampires.