Reika manipulated her weapons as she battled the Royal Guard in front of her, the male vampire using an odd mix of blood and water magic against her. The other Royal Guards also assisted him but were otherwise busy as they got swamped by everyone else present.
The people from Valhal were absolutely pummeling one of them, another one being dominated by the party from the Holy Church, and the fourth primarily fighting the undead woman Priscilla and her followers. Behind them, many others assisted or simply killed the many Soldiers also coming in and disturbing their battle.
Durability-wise, the vampires were all high-tier, but they simply didn’t get any opportunities to properly show their offensive might. Especially not after each of them was stabbed by one of the cursed Stakes originally intended for the Counts.
So while the battle still took a while, it was an utterly one-sided affair. Reika had wanted to join the fighting in the air with the Monarch very much but knew it was beyond her. She had caught glimpses of the fight and knew she wouldn’t last long and possibly only be a burden.
Among humans on Earth, she had always thought she was at the pinnacle, but she had to admit that her combat prowess was lacking behind that of others. Reika had perhaps focused too much time on her profession and not enough on actually improving her combat skills. This didn’t mean she was weak, though.
Four swords flew through the air, burning with blue fire as they cut at the barrier of the vampire before her. A Soldier approached from behind, and she directed two of the swords to stop it. They flew towards the vampire, and while one was blocked by an old rusty shield, the other stabbed the Soldier in the arm. The flames instantly began spreading, but instead of heat, they left signs of frostbite.
Reika had formed a cold flame that she used primarily for alchemy, as she found that most of her crafting worked best in low temperatures. She wasn’t an alchemist like Jake or others with a more classical approach. Instead, hers was more modern, at least by human standards, where she used a cold environment to preserve the effects of the medicine more effectively as she combined it through a hardening process.
This flame had also proved very useful when it came to fighting foes. The flames spread on the Soldier as Reika used her hands to manipulate the swords, and at the same time, she drew a simple magic circle using her feet and pure mana manipulation.
Her attack on the Soldier didn’t impede it, as it kept charging her. Reika finished the magic circle just in time as she flew to the side, the Soldier stepping where she had just been. The circle activated as chains of frost emerged, stopping the vampire.
Without further ado, she took out a small crystalline bottle and tossed it at the Soldier. It exploded with a cloud of odd silver dust, and a moment later, she tossed another bottle that exploded in blue light. All of the silver dust was activated and expanded as it froze, forming thousands of localized ice explosions. The soldier, caught in the middle, was completely frozen both inside and out.
With that done, Reika gladly turned her attention towards the Royal Guard again. The vampire had tried to do something but was hit by a blast from the side by the odd ship of the merchant from Haven, making it fail its spellcasting. This gave her ample opportunity to direct all four blades as she spotted one of the Royal Guards be finished off by the fire-using archer named Maria from the party from the Holy Church.
By now, it was only a question of time before the Royal Guards would all be wiped out.
The many Soldiers not faring any better as they were so heavily outnumbered.
Jake fired another arrow, hitting the Monarch on his thigh as he didn’t turn to mist fast enough – courtesy of the Sword Saint trying to cut his head off and Carmen attempting to rupture whatever organs could possibly remain within the Cursed Monarch.
Lyra had reentered the locket with Casper too. Based on him only really attacking after that, he proved Jake’s theory that the two of them were using some combo-attacks together by channeling both their energies.
Caleb and Sylphie kept up their work as strikers, occasionally hitting with powerful glancing blows when the Monarch was unprepared and often at the same time. Finally, the Sword Saint and Carmen kept the Monarch engaged in melee, with Jake shooting his bow from only a few hundred meters away.
Eron was uselessly unconscious on the ground below, still under the effect of the Monarch’s spell. The vampire had tried to use a spell on the Sword Saint at one point also, but it appeared to have little to no effect. Carmen was affected, but the pain she caused herself with her magic seemed to snap her out of it instantly, rendering her effectively immune. Below, the Royal Guards and soldiers fell one by one.
Reflecting on the entire battle – while still shooting arrows – Jake had a feeling this couldn’t be it. The Monarch was around 190 as far as Jake could tell, which meant he was nearly C-grade, but so far, that battle hadn’t been that hard at all.
He did think that the Monarch wasn’t at the pinnacle for someone his level, quite the opposite actually. He was clearly severely weakened, and the Cursed part of his name was not a positive moniker. It was something that restricted him, same as how the Counts had been starved.
There was also the fact that the Monarch still had a far too casual approach of just dragging out time. He had landed some wounds on them but primarily Carmen, who self-healed. While he had gone for Casper earlier, and even Jake and Caleb had taken some blows, it was nothing serious. It was like the Monarch was waiting for something and still hiding a part of his power... not that Jake was particularly worried.
They were all holding back.
Every single one of them present had more to show and were just waiting for it to be required. Blowing your load too early was an excellent way to turn a good situation bad, after all.
But, more so than any of his own postulations and belief that the Monarch had more to show were the actions of Jacob. The Augur was still preparing some ritual with hundreds of people below, hidden behind a barrier meant to obscure them – a useless attempt before the power of the full-perception-build.
Alright, entirely useless it wasn’t as the Monarch hadn’t noticed yet. Perhaps just specially designed to be hidden from vampires? Either way, the ritual proved that Jacob was preparing for something that was to come, clearly having at least some sense that there was more to the Monarch.
Which made perfect sense… what boss fight was good with only one phase?
The fighting kept up for a few more minutes, the Earth-side more dominant everywhere. After the first of the four remaining Royal Guards fell, the others quickly followed as they were swarmed and overwhelmed. The Soldiers were slaughtered wholesale, many of them having ten or even twenty people gang up on them. Rituals from the undead side and the Holy Church activated to blow them up continuously, and the Noboru clan even joined in with some long-range barrages that had pinpoint precision. Not to mention all of the parties like Neil’s who were killing the vampires with almost machine-like efficiency.
Jake kept up the assault of the Monarch, feeling his poison accumulate, especially the large dose he injected with Touch was still doing harm. He also discovered that the stake Casper stabbed the Monarch with earlier was a modified version of the ones used on the Counts, this one able to be used on the Monarch, even though it appeared to be way less effective. As to how he had learned this? Well, because Casper had more of them as he saw him summon another, which allowed Jake to get a better look.
In a final clash, the Sword Saint managed to land a deep cut on the Monarch just as Jake hit the vampire in his hand as he tried to block. Carmen, Sylphie, and Caleb also all hit at once, with the final attack made by Casper being dodged as the Monarch turned to mist.
He appeared floating far above them as he looked down. Jake stared up and saw the vampire stand there, his clothes shredded in nearly all places, his body filled with wounds and marks as black veins spread across it. Yet he smiled.
“I must admit… this is not going as I had imagined. This body is truly not what it once was… if it ever was. I am beginning to question if I am truly a King of Blood or merely a specter formed of his memories. Perhaps a bit of both? I am not certain it matters, but one cannot help but question,” the Monarch said as he looked down at them and then up towards the sky.
Jake considered shooting an arrow, but he wanted to see what the Monarch would do next if he was perfectly honest. Also, it would not hit for sure, and none of the others seemed to want to attack too right away but just took the breather instead. Jake knew it could be mentally taxing to constantly fight and be on your toes, so he got it. Partly.
“Back when Yalsten was founded, the True Ancestor handed a treasure to the founder. A treasure meant to preserve the Legacy of the True Ancestor, hidden here away from sight. Perhaps this treasure was the cause of the fall of Yalsten to begin with… did you know that I caused the isolation of our world on purpose?
“The Church, undead, and many others were closing in, and on my way back after I collected sacrifices for the grand ritual, I was discovered. I was forced to sever all spatial channels leading to the outside world to stop them from getting in and safeguard the treasure. Naturally, this could not be shared with the inhabitants. I just had to say that the curse damaged the channels and eventually broke them. I was even made to kill all those who wanted to leave and make those who stayed behind believe their relatives safely got away.”
The Monarch spoke as he floated in the air. His wound dripped down blood as he ignored everything and kept speaking.
“This was not a proud moment but one of necessity. I believed we could restore the connection… do something. But no, the curse ritual was tampered with or failed. Everything began breaking down, and I was forced to seal myself while working on a device to try and restrain my own curse.”
He sighed, shaking his head.
“An utter display of failure. All of it. Now, I am a mere husk of what I once was… but one thing remained with me. For I had kept one promise. To safeguard the treasure left by the True Ancestor. I was unable to do anything with it myself; all vampires were due to the Law of Ancestry… but the rule is gone, it seems. I had hoped to avoid using this, as even I am uncertain of its effects, but would the system have left it with me if it led to catastrophe?”
On the ground below, the coffin that the Cursed Monarch had been lying in suddenly exploded as a hidden compartment was opened. A small glowing red item soared up and stopped right in front of the Monarch, him looking at it with excitement and reverence.
He spread out his hands as the red item was revealed to be a necklace. A necklace that held a small glass bauble with some red liquid stored within it.
“The Blood of Sanguine.”
Jake identified the necklace as fast as he could as his eyes opened wide.
[Sanguine’s Blood Legacy (Divine)]
He failed to see any more information than that; his Identify perhaps not good enough or the item too far above him. Yet, he could not understand how a divine-rarity item could be present in the Treasure Hunt of D-grades, and he didn’t have time to find out.
The Monarch looked at the necklace as it responded. Not to him or anyone else, but it simply imposed its own will upon the world around it. The sky became red as it released a subtle red wave of energy that pulsed across the entire Treasure Hunt, nearly unnoticeable.
It passed through Jake and everyone else without any effect… but the same could not be said for those of the vampiric race. The first to be hit was the Monarch, who simply let the energy wash over him, and as it did, he began changing.
His husked form healed instantly as his wrinkled skin tightened up, deep red hair grew on his head, and a black beard appeared at impossible speeds. Muscles grew and wriggled as his entire body went from a deathly-looking dried-up husk to a man who looked to be at his prime. At the same time, all traces of the curse of Yalsten left his body.
On the plains below, the wave hit all of the corpses of the vampires. Hundreds of Soldiers had been slain, all of the Royal Guards dead. Their bodies released black smoke as the curse disappeared. Even more so, when the wave hit them, their bodies melted into red puddles and joined the blood they had already spilled in the battle before. All of this blood began gathering as humanoid vampire-looking shapes of blood formed.
Jake looked down as he saw dozens of these blood creatures form all over the plains and quickly peered down to Identify them.
[Vampiric Blood Elemental – lvl 143]
[Vampiric Blood Elemental – lvl 151]
[Vampiric Blood Elemental – lvl 164]
Their levels varied widely, and so did their strength. Jake saw the many people below, many of them exhausted and now faced with powerful enemies once more. The most powerful elemental was level 169 and had been formed around where the Royal Guards had been slain, and he already saw the people from the Holy Church prepare to face it, looking almost as if this was expected. Perhaps because Jacob had seen this coming. In the end, hundreds of those elementals were formed.
Finally, Jake turned his gaze to the Cursed Monarch… and noticed upon using Identify that he couldn’t use that name anymore.
[Monarch of Blood - 170]
The newly-born Monarch of Blood stood with his eyes closed as Jake wondered what exactly had happened. The level of the Monarch had dropped by more than twenty levels… yet when he gauged the vampire in front of him... he was stronger. By not just a little.
“I see… all is planned indeed,” the Monarch said as he opened his deep red eyes, magic circles glowing within as he looked at them. “The True Ancestor was truly crafty.”
The necklace that had released the pulse continued upwards as the red sky intensified and the mist all over Yalsten was completely and utterly evaporated. Then, the necklace above transformed itself, releasing a flash of red light before revealing a blood-red celestial object hanging above, Jake uncertain if it was a moon or a sun.
At the same time, the Monarch of Blood released his aura as the unstable space of Yalsten appeared to shake and quiver at his display.
Jake felt the power and could only smile. He exchanged a glance with the Sword Saint and saw the old man return a nod. Outwardly he displayed worry… but Jake saw the man’s excitement.
The Monarch also smiled as he spread his arms wide and yelled:
“Come. Let the Will of the True Ancestor be done!”