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111. Spooky Skeletons

A thick layer of miasma was exuded from the field of flowers spreading out as far as I could see below the cliff. The brown gas seemed almost solid from up here— its noxious smell reaching us and forcing Daniel to throw up beside me.

The effects of this blight did not reach us. Only its vulgar aroma made its way this high; I had done my research and I determined that the blight was only deadly if we were within a dozen feet from it. Perhaps if we were a hundred feet from the blight, we would face some decrease in stamina or mana or even health.

But as long as we kept ourselves far from it, we would not run into any issues.

“Come on.”

I gently patted Daniel’s back.

“Let’s go around it.”

He looked up at me, eyes welling up. His gratitude was evident. The [Hero] walked with wobbly feet after Edithe and me— the red-haired woman almost completely unaffected by the stench.

“Are you ok?”

I gave her a worried look, although I was pretty sure she could not tell from my face. Humans were bad at detecting facial expression from Demons!

She nodded as she cast a sidelong glance to Daniel.

“I’m fine, since I grew up in the streets. It smells bad, but it’s no different from rotten garbage being left out for months on end without anyone cleaning it up.”

Edithe made an over exaggerated face of disgust. I giggled and stuck my tongue out.

“Well, the Netherworld never smelled like anything, but this still doesn't bother me!”

“Yet, you gag at the sight of food.”

“It’s disgusting!”

“And this smell isn’t? Maybe you should try eating garbage— perhaps you might like it.”

I scowl.

“Hey!”

That was apparently what animals like rats did. And Humans did not like rats, which meant that was an insult!

I paused as I tapped a finger on my chin.

“Maybe I should try what it tastes like, though.”

Edithe stared at me judgingly. I shrugged, and Daniel puked.

“Can we please get out of here?”

Rolling my eyes, I picked up the pace as we continued around the cliff. This was not the entirety of the Plaguelands. This was just the very beginning of it.

My eyes glazed over the vast landscape. It was blackened. The dirt here was of a dull color, almost as if the life was sucked out of it. Dirt did not have any life. But neither did rocks, however that did not stop the smattering of pebbles from being tinted with a black-ish hue.

“Why’s everything here so dark?”

I murmured as the sun began to set over the distant horizon. We descended down the side of a steep hill, far away from where the blight flowers had been. There were bodies lying at the bottom of the drop, corpses that had rotted and turned to bone and dust. Their loot— what they owned as adventurers— were no longer with them.

It was just a pile of fake-rocks now.

We reached the bottom and started past the littered corpses, marching through the undulating, barren landscape of the Plaguelands. The vague shape of hills filled my vision wherever I turned. It was not much of a sight. Not yet.

“Should we make camp soon?”

Daniel finally asked after having gathered his wits.

“We don’t want to progress too far into the Plaguelands. Especially not during the night.”

“Why not?”

My feet crinkled over some bones. For some reason, I looked down at them. They were white, unsullied. Without any clothing or items on them.

“Do they get some kind of advantage at night?”

“Not really, however undead are known to—”

“Watch out!”

I yelled and leapt over to him. I grabbed him with two of my arms as my other two conjured a flaming scythe. It cut through the ground, shearing through the bones like grass. The Skeleton reeled back, its arms severed at the joins, staring at me with hollow eyes.

“These are Skeletons, not corpses!”

I spun around as [Ember Core] lit my body ablaze with fiery armor. The ground cracked open, dirt shot up, and white, spindly figures dug themselves from the earth.

Edithe was faster to react than Daniel. She sent blasts of ice down at the Skeletons. However, her spells did nothing.

[Unarmed Skeleton - Lvl. 95]

[Unarmed Skeleton - Lvl. 93]

[Unarmed Skeleton - Lvl. 97]

“You can take care of yourself, right?”

I hurriedly faced Daniel who only just drew his sword. He nodded and his sword shone. But it was not the kind of glow emitted when he used [Hero’s Slash]. My eyes grew wide as the realization sunk in: he had advanced his Class.

“I can. Go help Edithe.”

“Got it.”

I took a deep breath and a plume of flame bloomed out. The [Flaming Breath] razed the bones of the Skeletons as they rose to their feet. They were charred now— black flakes pouring off their pure white.

However, that was not enough. Not by itself. Edithe drew her staff back as a large orb of electricity charged itself. She loosed it on a single Skeleton that just drew itself onto its feet, blasting it in half.

Defeated [Unarmed Skeleton - Lvl 89]!

More experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 10 levels above you!

Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!

So, my Skills brought it to the brink, then? I narrowed my eyes before activating [Self Haste]. [Flame Burst] brought me forward next to her as she tried fruitlessly to harm the Skeletons with weaker spells. She was panting, breathing heavy, each labored breath showing how much these magical attacks exerted her. Yet, other than the first Skeleton, none of the others fell.

My scythe decapitated the skull of one of the Skeleton’s just as they reached Edithe. I landed next to her, the weapon in my hand changing to a smaller sickle, chains already wrapped around my forearm.

I hurled the kusarigama out and spun, striking everything over a wide distance. A Skeleton caught it by the chains, but I tugged it and yanked the undead over to me. [Barrage of Cinders] took over as I crushed its bones to dust, grinding its skull, and breaking it by the joints. It was far more fragile than a Golem.

Defeated [Unarmed Skeleton - Lvl 95]!

More experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 20 levels above you!

Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!

I stepped over the dead Skeleton, a glare crossing over my face. I bared my teeth and spoke.

“Kneel!”

[Intimidation] was sent echoing through the night. My voice caused their bones to shake, rattling from the vibration in the air. It even dispelled the trace amounts of miasma floating around me; I shouted as loud as I could, focusing the Skill only on the Skeletons.

They did not even pause. They stumbled after me, swinging their fists in a wild charge.

“Mindless things!”

I traded blows with one that was slightly lower leveled than the rest. And yet, when their fists made contact with me, I flinched. My [Ember Core] rippled and there was a flicker of aura around my body.

Crushing the Skeleton with four quick strikes, I moved on to the next as I bounded forward as fast as I could. While my [Self Haste] was still active, I had to act. These Skeletons dealt a lot of damage for ostensibly harmless strikes.

My Ring of Lesser Protection would not hold up to the accumulated damage. One of the Skeleton’s however, blurred forward. Its strike came fast. Like it had some kind of speed Skill itself. I flinched, preparing to brace myself for the blow.

And a gust of wind knocked it aside. Edithe lowered her staff, fixing me with a determined look.

“If I can’t hurt them, I’ll keep them off you!”

“Thanks!”

I grinned and continued my assault. Daniel’s blade flashed occasionally just as my flames lit up the night. I took a step back at one point as [Flaming Breath] recharged itself, and loosed it at the last of the Skeletons.

Defeated [Unarmed Skeleton - Lvl 97]!

More experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 20 levels above you!

Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!

...

Defeated [Unarmed Skeleton - Lvl 93]!

More experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 20 levels above you!

Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!

Subspecies [Asura Changeling] Level Up!

[Asura Changeling – Lvl. 73] -> [Asura Changeling – Lvl. 74]

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

Salvos (Death of the Destroyer)

Species: [Greater Demon of Pride]

Subspecies: [Asura Changeling] - Lvl. 74

General Skills:

[Advanced Mana Manipulation] - Lvl. 5

[Identification] - Lvl. 5

[Racial Skill: Universal Language Comprehension] - Lvl. 1

[Racial Skill: Mortal Form] - Lvl. 3

[Rest] - Lvl. 3

[Lesser Enhanced Wisdom] - Lvl. 1

[Title Skill: Zealous Call] - Lvl. 2

Stats:

[Available Stat Points: 10]

[Vitality]: 79 (+5)

[Strength]: 52 (+5)

[Endurance]: 74 (+5)

[Wisdom]: 105 (+5) (+5)

[Agility]: 166 (+5)

Skills:

[Available Skill Points:9]

[Advanced Fire Creation] - Lvl. 30 (Maxed)

[Barrage of Cinders] - Lvl. 3

[Ember Core] - Lvl. 2

[Flame Burst] - Lvl. 3

[Flaming Breath] - Lvl. 1

[Intimidation] - Lvl. 3

[Scorching Wave] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Self Haste] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Passive - A Hunter’s Sense] - Lvl. 2

[Passive - Blue Flames] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)

[Passive - Weapon Mastery] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)

I slumped on the ground, all four of my hands sprawled out as I heaved a heavy sigh. The bones of the Skeletons clatter around me. Many of them were still intact, only a few joints broken. But they were all dead.

“I leveled up!”

Barely managing to squeak out those words of victory, I quickly distributed my Stat Points. I spent them on [Strength] and [Endurance] for now. Because that battle drained me.

I refrained from touching my Skill Points for now.

“Aren’t Skeletons supposed to be swarm monsters?”

I turned and looked over at Daniel, who was even more exhausted than I. The only one who was still standing was Edithe, and she was more in a bent over position as she leaned against her staff.

“They… are.”

He took a deep breath and his eyes rolled over my way.

“And that was a big swarm.”

“That was a swarm?”

We had fought just over a dozen Skeletons. They were most Level 90, which made them all very dangerous. But they were stupid and had no teamwork. Hence why we could beat them.

Also, because I’m a Demon with a Title and Daniel is a [Hero] with a Title. And Edithe may be a [Summoner] who can’t summon, but she has a Title too.

“For undead? Yes.”

“Huh.”

The swarm monsters I had fought so far mostly numbered in the dozens when they came in a group. Others were in the hundreds, like Shade Swarmers. But apparently the cap for what constituted a swarm monster went as low as a dozen in a group.

“Come on.”

Edithe’s voice broke us from our rest and [Rest]. She helped pick Daniel up and pointed out a hill close to us.

“We’ll find a place to properly recover there. If we’re already seeing Skeletons and we’re this shallow into the Plaguelands.”

She glanced over at me, a serious look on her face.

“I don’t think we should try venturing much further into the Plaguelands, Salvos.”

“Aw, but look at how much you’ve leveled—”

I paused, cutting myself off as I identified her.

“Huh. You’re only Level 60.”

Only a single level after that encounter. Despite having fought multiple Level 90s, she only leveled once. And that was in addition to the accumulated experience over the past month of little leveling!

“That’s right.”

She spoke simply and started forward.

“As you can see, I barely gained any experience from that battle. It’s just not that easy to help someone else level. That’s all.”

 

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