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115. Depth

The trip to and from Ghostlight every day ate up less time than I had expected; it was probably because of me rushing my companions. Otherwise, they would have trudged along so slowly, night would have fallen before we arrived!

That was an over exaggeration. But it was apt, considering how lazy Humans could be from time to time. I did not need their sleep or their rest— so, they thought I was the weird one when they were the ones who were weird!

Every time we arrived in the Plaguelands, we would pass by fields of blight flowers. The foul-smelling miasma forced Daniel to wretch each time. It was funny. But he did not like it when I laughed at him for it.

We would usually find and catch stray Skeletons off-guard. With our teamwork, we dismantled those walking bones easily, turning them to dust. There were a few times where we were surprised by a few [Skeleton Warriors]. Those were the ones that were hard to kill.

Even with the three of us.

Especially with the three of us.

Edithe was, unfortunately, a liability in those situations. She would have to stay back from the fighting, keep away from getting hurt. During those battles, she would not level at all. Even though there was such a disparity between her and them. Because there was such a disparity, she could not do much.

Defeated [Unarmed Skeleton - Lvl. 94]!

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!

Defeated [Skeleton Warrior - Lvl. 101]!

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. 75] -> [Asura Changeling – Lvl. 76]

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

Subspecies [Asura Changeling] Level Up!

[Asura Changeling – Lvl. 76] -> [Asura Changeling – Lvl. 77]

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

It had been a week since we first went to Ghostlight. We now knew when was the best time to leave the Plaguelands and begin heading back to the town before it grew too dark. It was much harder to be ambushed when it was still bright out— or at least, bright enough for me to spot the group of Skeletons wandering the blackened earth ahead of us.

“I got this.”

Beaming at my companions, I created a bow made of fire. I held it up and pointed at the targets so distant. I was beginning to get used to my [Passive - Refined Casting] now. I was considering changing it to something else since I did not want to become reliant on it. However, at times like these, I found it really useful.

Three Blazing Bolts nocked itself on the fiery bow. My arms did not shake. My accuracy was unperturbed. I loosed the powerful explosives straight at the Skeletons. They landed on three separate skulls, almost knocking their heads straight off.

Then I changed weapons. In a mere moment, the bow shifted and became a Sickle Grenade. I tossed it forward, blasting the Skeletons with a blue explosion. Two notifications rang off in my head, but there were still five of them left.

I discerned the last Skeleton I had attacked with my Blazing Bolts— the one that survived the Sickle Grenade. I pointed at it and turned to Edithe.

“There!”

She nodded and released her charged spell. A volley of ice rained down on the Skeletons, but they focused mostly on the one that was hurt. It collapsed, the accumulated damage too much for it to handle as the remaining four charged us.

Daniel and I intercepted them. With [Ember Core] burning my body, and Daniel’s [Aura of the Sentinel] we disposed of the last of them in a few minutes. I tried to help Edithe. She finished off another Skeleton. But otherwise, she mostly stayed back.

With the last of the Skeletons finished, I groaned and crossed my arms.

“I didn’t even get a level!”

“Of course not. You just leveled yesterday.”

Daniel rolled his eyes. My gaze shifted to Edithe, and I realized her eyes were unfocused.

“Edithe?”

I blinked. But then I understood what she was doing. I identified her quickly, and I beamed.

“You’re Level 65! And it has only been a week! See?”

She was leveling at a faster rate than even me; despite the fact that she could not contribute as much in battle. Three levels. Seven days.

Edithe shook her head.

“I’m leveling fast. For now.”

Sighing, she started past me.

“But with each level I gain, the growth would slow. If it takes a week to level three times now, it would take two weeks to do the same next time around. Then maybe another month to finally get to Level 70.”

“It’s still, uh, faster than most people.”

Daniel piped up from the side. Edithe nodded.

“It is. But I guess I do feel kind of inadequate. Since, after all, I’m competing with you two.”

A wry smile crossed her face. I grimaced. When we had first met, she was higher leveled than me by nearly 20 levels. And now, it was the reverse. I could not blame her for how she felt.

Placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder, I gestured at myself.

“I’m Salvos— a Demon. So, it’s not fair for you to compare yourself with me!”

I paused. My eyes landed on Daniel. He gave me a glare, and I shrugged.

“Daniel is weird, though.”

I said nothing else. Edithe laughed and shook her head.

“It’s fine, Salvos. Thank you.”

We walked in silence through the barren wasteland of the Plaguelands. I felt my pace slowing, my shoulders sagging, and a general feeling of unwellness at the way Edithe was acting. She was both so… motivated and demotivated at the same time.

When we caught sight of the first signs of the lush greenery beyond, an idea sprung itself into my head. Innocently hiding two of my hands behind my back, I craned over to get Edithe and Daniel’s attention.

“Hey…!”

“What’s wrong, Salvos?”

The red-haired woman quirked an eyebrow. I clasped my other two hands together.

“So… you two will be needing to sleep and stuff in Ghostlight, right?”

“Yeah, and?”

Daniel furrowed his brows. Edithe’s eyes widened in comprehension.

“Wait, don’t tell me—”

“Can I explore the Plaguelands while you two are asleep? Please? Pretty please?”

I tried giving them the best pleading face I could; the pair did not bite. The Human man frowned.

“Why the sudden request? You’ve been fine with staying in Ghostlight for the past week. Are you already getting bored?”

“Nope!”

He narrowed his eyes dubiously.

“I don’t believe you.”

Scowling, I drew my arms forward and harrumphed.

“Well, if you must know, I’m thinking of going even further into the Plaguelands. To look around.”

Edithe blinked and took a step forward.

“You’re trying to find higher leveled undead for us to fight, aren’t you?”

“Maybe…”

I trailed off, trying to whistle. An odd piercing sound came out instead. She hesitated.

“I don’t… know if that’s a good idea, Salvos.”

“But it is!”

I protested.

“If we want to help you level fast, we’ve got to scale the progress! You can’t just be fighting Level 100 Skeletons when you’re Level 70!”

“Why not?”

Daniel posed the question to me. I turned to him, and opened my mouth.

“Because—”

“Because I’d level faster. Right.”

Edithe placed a hand on her chin, the deliberation evident on her face. Daniel stared at her.

“Wait, you can’t possibly be considering this, Edithe?”

“I am. And honestly? Even if we say no, she’s going to do it anyway, isn’t she?”

The Human woman glanced at me, and I gave her a small nod. She continued.

“And if it’s something that helps me… helps us? I think we should just accept it.”

“That’s right!”

I chimed in, sticking my tongue out at Daniel.

“You’re a spoilsport!”

The Human man’s gaze danced between the two of us, his lips drawn into a thin line. Finally, it settled onto Edithe as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

“As long as you don’t have us fight this ‘Lich’. I’ve heard from the townspeople in Ghostlight— many Diamond Rank teams have sought him out. Very few of them return.”

“Yay!”

I wrapped my arms around my companions, cheering. The pair sputtered, trying to pry my four arms from them. I let go of them. Then I stepped back.

“I promise I won’t stray too far! I’ll be safe!”

“You better.”

Daniel murmured under his breath. I shot him a grin.

“Maybe you two can learn more about each other in the meantime.”

He sputtered, but Edithe just looked confused. Waving at them one last time, I started off. I bounded back into the Plaguelands, using all six of my limbs to carry me forward as fast as I could. Once I began to see the miasma, I slowed down and prowled slowly through the night.

There was a green-ish hue to the Plaguelands when the sun was not up. It was almost like an ethereal glow— I would have thought the blight was luminescent. But it was not. It was the light from the stars and the moon far above, limning the diffused gas as it reached up for the sky.

I did not stop to take in this sight; I continue onwards, past the massy hills. The discolored dirt. I nimbly moved through dead forests. Trees, robbed of their life. There were many corpses lying around. I did not stop by any of them. I gave them all a wide berth.

There was only the undead here. If someone died here, their body would be lost forever. These traps were not new to me. However, when I caught the signs of an unusual structure, I was struck by a cool chill.

I spun around, facing the creature standing behind me. It had disguised itself inside a dead tree. But now I could see the sheen despite the darkness of the night. A blue person, looking almost like a Human— but not. It faced me with a craned neck, turned so impossibly down I was sure it was dead.

And it was. Because it was an undead.

[Wight - Lvl. 111].

I drew back and bounded away, [Flame Burst] tripling the gap between us in an instant. I was not impeded by the speed of my companions here. I did not need to fight. Just like in the Netherworld, I could flee if necessary.

The curse that had struck me slowly vanished— it drained me of my mana. There was no direct attack there. I did not know why it chose to steal my mana rather than killing me, but I did not stop to question a wild creature. Their actions had no meaning or sense, otherwise they would not be wild.

I reached the structure I saw from afar. Decrepit, old buildings stood here. The wood had rotted away, leaving behind only the cobble building up its foundations. The cracks between the stone were filled with green moss. A few blight flowers grew here. They exuded their foul stench, covering the area with their miasma of blight.

Heads rose. Skeletons, hiding in the shadows of the ruins drew themselves up. They wielded weapons, and faced me with a keen intelligence I did not recognize. One of them stood taller than the rest. It was almost like a Skeleton— except it still had skin? At least, some kind of blackened skin that seemed to recede into its bones like tight clothing.

Two glowing eyes darted at me, and I identified it.

[Ghoul - Lvl. 108].

I frowned. Some kind of smart undead? It bellowed some kind of a guttural scream and the Skeletons chased me. I sent a single [Flaming Breath] their way before pulling back. I lost the pursuing Skeletons soon enough, passing by a field of blight flowers.

My gaze swept through the only vegetation filling the Plaguelands, and I narrowed my eyes. I saw lumbering figures moving behind the thick mist of blight. They were not shaped like Skeletons, more complete, but less than a person. They had dark green skin, almost like a Cyclops, but most of them were missing chunks of their body.

I took out a fire bow and sent a single arrow their way.

Defeated [Horde Zombie - Lvl. 78]!

Experience is awarded for defeating an enemy!

It fell, its head completely severed from its body. But the other Zombies twitched. Their necks snapped up to face me. I was already gone.

I rubbed at my chin as I walked through the Plaguelands. I saw more fields of blight flowers. More ruins. More dead forests. Deep into this Diamond Rank area, there were no longer even [Vurats] flying about.

In fact, I saw strangely shaped bats flying. They were larger than me, even. With wicked wings sailing them through the air, parts of their body decomposed.

I saw groups— clusters of Skeletons— surrounding Ghouls. The only intelligent undead I had seen so far seemed to gather the mindless Skeletons. And yet, despite having a semblance of sentience, they still acted the same way wild Demons did. It was just that they were the kind of wild Demons who disguised themselves as otherwise.

Like the horned Demon and his minions.

I paused mid-step when a single drop of liquid landed on my long nose. I glanced up, seeing dark clouds gather up in the sky. But when I peer carefully at it, I could see the fizzled weavings of mana. The water that dropped was not any ordinary rain. It was a rain of blight.

The patter of rainfall consumed me. I could feel my body growing weaker. The Plaguelands was still so vast— so expansive. I had only seen a glimpse of its depth. Yet, I had to leave now.

Activating [Self Haste], I ran away from the brown rain, away from the lumbering undead, and back in the direction I came. Except, I did not know where I came from. I halted and cocked my head.

“Huh. I think I’m lost.”

 

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