Sven and Jacob stood side by side as healers from both camps surrounded Carmen, who now lay unconscious to preserve her resources and heal faster. She had chosen to pass out, and Jacob had to admit that her perseverance was admirable.
“So?” Sven asked as he stared at the two healers who inspected her.
“The curse is embedded in her veins and throughout her body, both physically and spiritually. It isn’t harming her, but…”
“She won’t be able to join anymore fighting?” Jacob asked pointedly.
“Right,” the healer responded with a nod. The other one also concurred while adding. “Trying to heal it as an outsider might do more harm than good, and it looks like it will disappear in its own time within half a day or so.”
Jacob sighed. The Monarch of Blood had been a master of curses before his death, so for him to have such means was only to be expected. These kinds of curses were of an incredibly high level, and Earth simply didn’t have anyone who could deal with them yet. Moreover, Carmen was an ideal target after she used all her temporary boosting skills and was in a weakened state. All the curse effectively did was to extend that weakened state while amplifying it slightly.
“Do you think they will win?” Sven asked Jacob, a worried look on his face. Jacob understood… Carmen was the most powerful person from their faction on the planet and top five overall on Earth. She was powerful, but so were others.
Besides… he knew both he and the undead had more cards up their sleeves.
“I do. Especially if they bring the Monarch back here,” Jacob answered – the magic circle they had hidden now finally ready to be fully activated. He had mentioned the circle to Caleb, and Jake’s brother had promised to pass it on or lead the Monarch back himself.
Looking out over the Mistless Plains, it was just a slaughter of Vampiric Blood Elementals. A near-endless struggle that seemed to just keep going as the creatures reanimated again and again due to the Blood Moon hanging above. Luckily, they also got weaker every time.
Sven looked out over the area with him as he muttered. “If anyone can, it’s those two monsters.”
Jacob had to agree with that one.
The Sword Saint swept his blade across the ground as it cut upwards, making the Monarch block. An arrow flew right past the old man and hit the Monarch in the stomach, injecting poison and doing plenty of damage.
Blood magic condensed around the vampire, but the old man responded as curtains of water surrounded him. Each of them reflected the imagines of the blood orbs, and before they had a chance to attack him, the old man cut all of the reflected images, also making the real orbs disperse.
He smiled as he lunged forward, but the Monarch was ready as his weapon suddenly transformed. The Sword Saint was forced to retreat as a long spear suddenly stabbed towards him. The Monarch waved his other hand as a blood-red crystal shield appeared, and he took up a more defensive position.
Jake, who stood behind the two fighting old geezers, and took aim once more as he fired. The vampire blocked with the shield, as he also kept the Sword Saint at bay with the spear.
He shifted things up… Jake thought. He wasn’t the most talented when it came to fighting, but he did know that spears tended to be good against swords due to the longer range, especially if one could make sure the other person never got close. If the Sword Saint managed to enter his range, he would have an advantage, but the Monarch didn’t let him do that.
Well, normally, he wouldn’t, but that is where Jake came in.
Jake took a step as he appeared off to the side, and two more put him at a ninety-degree angle. He began running as he fired arrows, circling the Monarch who was dealing with the Sword Saint. The cocky vampire wanted to block his arrows with a shield? Well, that seemed hard to do from behind.
Something the Monarch clearly also noticed as he was hit with an arrow in the shoulder that held the spear. Another arrow came for the back of his head, but the Monarch summoned a helmet of crystal that was heavily nicked when hit and still made him rattled from the impact.
At the same time, the Sword Saint managed to close in and force the Monarch even more on the defensive. The spear transformed again into a sword as he blocked, but Jake also attacked him at the same time, making him take a few injuries here and there.
It seemed to be going well until suddenly the Monarch grinned. The Sword Saint cut down, and Jake fired an arrow, and both were surprised when they hit. The Monarch was struck in the back of the head with the arrow, the helmet pierced, and the sword nearly bisected the vampire from the shoulder to the groin.
Yet, just at that moment, Jake’s danger sense reacted. “GET BA-“
A shockwave rocked the terrain as an explosion sent the Sword Saint flying back and made Jake summon a barrier of arcane energy in front of him as he was also pushed away. However, the Sword Saint was hit the hardest, and the old man barely managed to stabilize himself as he landed, several wounds now covering his body. All of them pulsing with some odd energy.
Now it was pertinent to mention why Eron, Sylphie, and Casper weren’t helping. Well, they were busy. Three new blood clones were now fighting them, but another figure had also suddenly appeared from above. A monstrosity of blood and magic, wriggling and evershifting flesh marred its form. It was an absolute monster.
[Blood Abomination – lvl 160]
It was what had been resurrected by the Sanguine’s Blood Legacy item from the nine dead Counts of Blood and the thing that had dropped down from above earlier. It was another unexpected newcomer to mess up their plans and one the Monarch had clearly been waiting on during their whole speech and path discussion.
Speaking of the Monarch of Blood…
When the Monarch had exploded earlier, he had simply switched places with and detonated a blood clone – him now standing right in front of Casper, who had been dealing with three clones.
Casper reacted fast but was still taken by surprise as the blade dug into his body. He gritted his teeth as the curse-energy revolved around him, but the Monarch just smiled as he held out his hand and sent out a faint pulse that dispelled whatever Casper was trying to do.
Just before the Monarch managed to land another hit, his body froze as an arrow arrived. While the Monarch’s disappearance was a surprise for sure, it hadn’t fooled his Mark and allowed Jake to adapt instantly.
However, this entire interruption had let the clones run wild. The only positive thing was the obvious lack of intelligence in the Blood Abomination, allowing Eron to handle it alone for now. Perhaps the Monarch had some control over it, but clearly, he couldn’t spare the mental focus to do so even if it was possible… until he could, as suddenly the Abomination charged for Jake.
With Carmen out of the picture and Caleb still returning, they were rather short-staffed. Sylphie was helping out Eron to keep the damn Abomination busy too before. To call the entire situation frustrating was an understatement, as the Monarch clearly didn’t want to just fight Jake… he wanted to kill a select few people - Casper and Caleb clearly among them.
Jake supported Casper as much as he could, but soon the blood clones who were fighting his undead pal before came for him along with the Abomination that luckily Sylphie and Eron held back for now. All of the clones were just getting in the way of his arrows after the first one, giving the hulking monstrosity time to arrive. This seriously isn’t good.
The Monarch had wanted to isolate Casper… and he was doing a pretty good job at it. Repeated blasts sent the undead flying further and further away, as Jake could only try and kill the blood clones as fast as possible.
Luckily, he was soon joined by the Sword Saint, who was back on his feet and engaged the clones. He threw Jake a glance, and with a nod, the Saint engaged the Abomination as Jake fought the clones before he took off to follow the Monarch and Casper. All he could do for now was hope Casper could hold on until he arrived.
Casper concurred… this situation wasn’t good. His curse magic was repeatedly dispelled, the Monarch having hidden that ability. He repeatedly summoned his pre-prepared wooden shields, but seeing them breaking one by one made it clear he couldn’t hold on for long.
Ultimately, Casper was not a fighter but a trapper. He created pre-prepared tools and traps to battle his foes and take them down, but to do that, it required research. Casper had used these ten days primarily to do the Vaults and spent all time in between preparing for this exact fight.
Several modified Stakes, weapons created from the research of the Pure Ones, traps, devices, shields made specifically to battle the blood energy of vampires… all of it ultimately faltered before superior power. Without Lyra lending him her power, he would have been downed already.
“We need to use it,” Lyra stated in his head. Casper groaned as he blocked, sending him flying even further away from everyone.
“If we-“ Casper tried to argue but was interrupted both by Lyra and a beam of blood that penetrated his chest and sent him tumbling even further back. A follow-up beam nearly severed his arm as he registered Lyra’s voice.
Casper was blasted back one more time and only had time to react because Jake fired an arrow at the Monarch from far off in the distance, forcing the vampire to redirect his attention momentarily. Focusing his energy, Casper activated a seal as his locket began glowing.
His flesh began melting as the white bones were revealed beneath, and at the same time, Lyra came out of the locket as her body superimposed upon his. Power surged through Casper as he felt himself transform. This was their ultimate weapon and their most potent temporary boosting skill.
Soon, all of the flesh on his body was gone, and Casper had transformed into a lich-like creature with ghastly eyes and the blight energy revolving around him as his entire body glowed. The Monarch looked his way as Casper held out his hand and released a beam of pure blight energy.
The Monarch turned to mist to avoid it as Casper prepared another attack with the intent to-
“Ah, blight,” the vampire suddenly said with a huge smile as he appeared off to the side. “A potent affinity that is difficult to grasp even to me… much less you... one used to kill countless vampires.”
The Monarch made four clones all around him as they spread out in a circle. Casper tried to release another blast to get them away, but he found an odd barrier covering each of them.
“Is it not only to be expected we made countermeasures?”
All of the clones exploded at once as a giant spherical magic circle was created all around him. Casper’s eyes opened wide as he tried to release an attack but found his blight magic completely ineffective. Soon after, his vision began blurring as the magic circle truly powered up until he was entirely blinded.
“Casper… what’s happening? I can’t see anything…”
Casper was truly panicking now. He still felt his body, but nothing else. Blightform made him rely entirely on magical senses as he lost all the usual biological ones, but now it didn’t work. Instead, he felt the burning blight on his body suddenly dim as he weakened.
He needed to escape. He tried moving to the side, but he didn’t know if it worked. He couldn’t feel anything. There was no way of knowing if he had moved or just stayed where he was. There was no way to know anything besides his own dimming strength as the blight energy began burning out.
Blightform was supposed to be their ultimate attack. A skill that allowed him and Lyra to perfectly fuse and temporarily grant Casper powers far above usual and even allowed him to use the blight-affinity far more liberally than the few skills he was experimenting with.
Yet all this form had done was to make him fall into a trap. The undead had hunted down the vampires in a pro-longed war… perhaps it was foolish to think they had not made up ways to fight it - barriers and spells explicitly made to counter their magic.
“I’m sorry, Lyra… I didn’t see this coming,” Casper told her through their connection. She was no longer able to respond as she was weakened at an even faster pace than he. He innately felt that she couldn’t hold on for much longer, and with her demise, so would he most likely die. Perhaps he would have a faint chance of surviving… but that wasn’t a life he would want to live.
Only a bit more time passed before Casper cursed loudly to himself before he activated his Hunter Insignia and left the Treasure Hunt. His only recompense was that at least the treasures he had acquired were brought back to Earth safely. He, along with most others, had given their treasures to someone else from their faction before this final battle began to have it be teleported out during the grace period, as they all knew it was a risk to stay.
He had just never expected to be forced to leave like this.
An arcane explosion consumed the terrain as the Monarch was pushed back. He summoned orbs of blood to impede Jake, but he merely stepped down twice as he appeared off to the side with the first and right behind the Monarch with the second.
His entire body burned with stamina as he pushed himself even harder than before, his eyes filled with anger and annoyance. The vampire reacted to Jake’s attack as he summoned a barrier, but Jake’s scimitar descended surrounded by dark and arcane mana as he stabbed through it and into the Monarch.
That is when he felt his Mark of the Avaricious Arcane Hunter he had left on Casper disappear. Momentarily Jake was afraid that his old office pal had died, but he quickly noticed that wasn’t it. Instead, he had just teleported out… which in itself was also enough to piss him off.
The Monarch had managed to get some distance as the damn Abomination and blood clones had impeded him when he tried to help Casper, allowing the vampire to cast his magic. Jake had only just reached the Monarch again when Casper was encapsulated by the sphere, and the moment he was, the entire sphere disappeared – teleported back to where he had fucking teleported away with Carmen last time. In other words, it was a way too long distance away that Jake had no way of reaching.
If he did so, then Sylphie, the Sword Saint, and the recently returned Caleb would be screwed. The entire situation was so fucking frustrating as Jake felt like the Monarch actively tried to avoid fighting him as the vampire instead picked off the others.
“Just fucking fight me,” Jake growled as he pushed his blade into the chest of the vampire.
The Monarch looked up at him as he smiled. “That wouldn’t be in my best interest. I have a mission, same as you.”
An explosion of blood meant to send Jake flying back came out of the Monarch. Jake, however, was done. Scales of the Malefic Viper covered his body as the blood energy washed over him, and instead of blowing him off, he just leaned in closer.
“It wasn’t a request,” Jake said as he infused even more mana into his presence as mana bolts condensed all around him and the Monarch.
“Truly the Chosen of the Malefic One,” the Monarch answered with an impressed tone. “I admit, I legitimately have no confidence in defeating you. But-”
The vampire suddenly ripped himself free, allowing Jake’s scimitar to rip through his flesh. Quickly, Jake released his stable arcane bolts as they flew forward, penetrating the body of the Monarch. The vampire took the blows, and his body began glowing red as he sped away far more swiftly than Jake expected.
“-you cannot contain me either.”
Jake cursed under his breath as he chased after the vampire who had changed his target yet again, this time going for Caleb, who was helping the others deal with the Abomination. After the Monarch had given the monster new instructions, it no longer bothered only fighting Eron and Sylphie but had forced the Sword Saint to join in and fight it, with Caleb also coming. Primarily he had done so due to how Jake was dealing with the Monarch quite well at the time.
Caleb, to his credit, noticed he was the next target and reacted instantly.
“Ascension of Tenlucis.”
For a moment, the red sky darkened as lightning stuck down, and an all-encompassing pressure covered the area – perhaps the entirety of Yalsten – for a brief moment before all returned to normal.
The only target of the lightning strike was Caleb himself as his form emerged shrouded in it. Yet, he did not engage the Monarch directly but began flying back in the direction towards the Mistless Plains. Jake followed close behind while the others stayed to finish off the Abomination.
I fucking hate team battles.