The flurry of magic crashed down on us. I grabbed my companions before it could get close. [Ember Core] was already flaring up, wreathing me in my armor of flames. Edithe had created a barrier, while Daniel was shining brilliantly thanks to [Aura of the Sentinel].
But I was not going to risk us taking the brunt of the attack. So, I grabbed them and leapt back with a [Flame Burst], aided by [Self Haste]. The explosion blasted straight up, like some kind of an erupting pillar. The iridescent colors mixed together to create a bright light. One that lit up the forest, alerting everyone in the camp of the attack.
Emerging from ground zero of the blast were five Kobolds. They were rather high leveled. The one leading them was Level 106, followed by two just around the Level 100 range, and the last two at the mid 90’s.
If this was an encounter in the Plaguelands, it would have been an easy victory for us. However, this was not. They were Kobolds. They had Classes and a Subspecies evolution. At least, the Level 100s, did.
They would be far stronger than any enemy I had fought. Sure, they might be exhausted. The Kobold woman I fought earlier certainly was exhausted from fighting Alex Cromerth, member of the Vaun Qiuer Empire’s elite Swordsguard Forces.
Unfortunately for us, Alex Cromerth, member of the Vaun Qiuer Empire’s elite Swordsguard Forces, was dead. He had been slain by these Kobolds. Alone, against the five of them, of course he would not stand a chance.
The lead Kobold had obsidian black skin. At least, I thought he did. I had never seen obsidian before. Daniel told me that that was how you described something of an incredibly dark shade.
He stared at us with purple eyes. Appraising. He was not a [Cultist]. Not like Gexli had been. Although the one of the two Level 100s was a [Cultist], she did not seem like she was in charge here. Perhaps a second in command?
Screams echoed in the background as the lead Kobold took a step forward.
“It seems the Humans have conveniently gathered themselves together for us to slaughter. How convenient, Zix the [Warrior].”
“Indeed, Hukba the [Cultist].”
Zix— the obsidian-scaled Kobold— took a step forward. He glanced over at the two Level 90s, and nodded.
“Kill those who try to escape. We’ll deal with the defenders.”
The pair got to work. They leapt past us, ignoring us as if we were not even there. Edithe raised her staff at them.
The third Level 100 Kobold lashed out. He appeared in front of Edithe, slashing at her with his claws. He was a [Rogue], after all. The red-haired woman could barely react in time.
Unfortunately for the Kobold, I could. He stumbled back, a burning, blue sword stabbed through his gut. Blood dripped from the wound as I followed up with a [Barrage of Cinders], but he managed to hop away in time.
“You will not hurt my companions.”
I narrowed my eyes, meeting the gaze of the Zix the [Warrior]. He had a spear in hand— one which he flipped over his head before slithering his tongue out of his mouth in a cocky smile.
“Oh, really? The Old Gods curse me, does such a weak Human think she can slay us?”
“I am not a weak Human.”
I spoke truthfully. Zix shook his head, unfurling a single wing behind his back, a cruel look on his face.
“We shall see.”
Before I could retort, the [Rogue] from earlier opened his mouth. A breath of flames came rushing out. I was about to counter it with my own when Daniel stepped forward. He raised his sword and his [Aura of the Sentinel] came out like a shield. It blocked the attack, cutting it in half so the flames would jet out to the sides at the nearby trees.
“Daniel, protect Edithe!”
I called out to the Human man. He nodded as I rushed out around him. Hukba the [Cultist] had a hand raised as I leapt out to the side. I was expecting magic or some other kind of spell to come from her. However, instead she produced two round objects.
I blinked as she hurled the first at me. I caught it midair with my fire chains and tossed it back at her, intercepting the second ball. They collided and burst out into a web of green energy, covering the ground as smoke sizzled up in the air.
Good thing I didn’t touch it. I sent a [Flaming Breath] at the [Rogue], forcing him back. I was just about to follow up with a strike with my kusarigama when Zix appeared in front of me.
He brought a claw down at me, my eyes grew wide. It was like an image of some kind of beast appeared behind him. It looked like a Kobold. It had the eyes of a Kobold. But I could tell it was not a Kobold.
[Flame Burst] propelled me away from the attack and I crashed at a nearby tree. The ground was torn asunder. Three claw marks scarred the earth, trailing out like lightning. I picked myself up and panted.
“That was dangerous!”
I dashed forward at Zix as he spun around, facing me with an apathetic gaze. I slid under a side slash, wrapping my chains under his legs to trip him. He fell to the ground, and I slammed the sickled edge powered by [Barrage of Cinders] against his back.
The fire kusarigama broke. I stared in shock as my weapon shattered after a few strikes against his scales.
Zix broke the chains wrapped around his feet as a gust of wind shot out around him. I managed to move away in time to dodge his next swing, but I felt scratches forming on my skin from the mini cyclone. His wings flared up as the storm raged on.
An evolutionary Skill? I narrowed my eyes. This was a bad match-up for me. I could not hurt Zix. I did not think his [Vitality] was high. At least, not with the attacks he had been tossing my way. That had to be some kind of High Grade item aiding his defenses.
Perhaps something that hardened his scales?
I shook my head and turned to Daniel. He and Edithe were embroiled in a battle against the [Rogue] and Hukba the [Cultist]. His sword shone as he swung it in arcs, hovering over the red-haired woman like some kind of protector.
Edithe would loose a few spells out— mostly at Hukba. However, it seemed to me like Daniel was doing all the work. After all, he was a [Hero] and higher leveled than her. I clicked my tongue and called out to them.
The Human man blinked as I pointed at Zix who was charging me with an intense fury.
He did not come to a halt, let alone drop to his knees. However, there was a brief moment of hesitation. One that allowed me to do the next part uninterrupted. I faced the [Rogue] and Hukba, sprinting forward as I shouted a growl.
[Title Skill: Zealous Call].
Their attention turned towards me. Hukba drew a cross-shaped object and unleashed a whirlwind of frozen snow my way. The [Rogue] danced alongside the oncoming blizzard, their claws trailing with a red glow.
I grinned over at Daniel.
[Self Haste] had not recovered just yet. All I could rely on was [Flame Burst] to carry me around the attack. As I did, I watched Daniel rush away from Edithe, charging Zix and leaving her defenseless. However, she was not under threat. At least, not for a moment longer.
In fact, she was emboldened by my Title Skill. She created a ball of fire and electricity and targeted Hukba. The attack blasted the [Cultist], sending her flying back. She was mostly uninjured, however, protected by her enchanted armor and items.
I did not let that distraction go to waste. I engaged the [Rogue], landing a [Barrage of Cinders] combination as his attacks missed me. They whiffed— just barely grazing by my face. I struck with no kusarigama. Only my fists dealing the blow.
And just as he broke out of his enraged stupor, I conjured a pair of chains and threw them around his neck. I tugged at it, forcing him to stumble towards me. With a kick, I boosted off him and leapt at Hukba.
The edge of the chains shone brilliantly. The [Cultist] was still picking herself up, being blasted by spells from Edithe. It almost did not seem to affect the Kobold woman. It was just enough to send her in a daze, but did not penetrate her defenses.
That would change now.
A sickled edge formed on my chains. It was not an ordinary kusarigama. It was my Sickle Grenade. I could not cast it quickly. Not without [Passive - Refined Casting]. But I could still create it. It just took some time.
Time which I had already spent since I first created these chains.
“You Humans dare lay a hand on me? I am Hukba the [Cultist]! One of the foremost guardians of the Scale Sentinels!”
“I don’t care! I know the First Dragonling, and she’s way more important than you!”
I spun the chains and hurled the Sickle Grenade at Hukba. Her eyes grew wide as she saw the approaching light. She raised a clawed hand— as if that would do anything— to brace herself from the blast.
The explosion caused a ripple on the barrier around her. The aura that had been protecting her from harm's way fizzled out— she was left undefended. Unprotected.
I landed right before her, a grin spreading across my face. I raised a fist—
Only for the [Rogue] to claw at me from behind. It tore through my blue jacket— and that was fine, since it would repair over time. But I still got annoyed about it!
I whirled around, creating a pair of fire daggers in each hand. I traded blows with the Kobold. He was fast, but it seemed some of his Stats went to his attack power rather than his speed. I found my daggers being knocked away, even as I struck him a few times, before I finally could activate [Self Haste].
I dodged away from a furious clawed strike that emitted a red energy. It whipped forward, like a kind of extension to his body, although it was not enough to reach me. That was before I heard a shout from behind.
“Salvos! Watch out!”
Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Hukba holding a staff. She was not conjuring a spell. Rather, the staff itself was casting a spell. I saw it float— levitate up— overcome with a powerful energy. The strands of mana in the air bent around it, before being pulled into the staff.
A streak of black lightning shot out, coming at me and tearing up the earth. I threw myself to the side, aided by [Flame Burst] before I found myself landing next to Edithe. The two Kobolds regrouped as well— Hukba offered the [Rogue] a hand, pulling him to his feet.
Edithe spoke softly.
“I’m… sorry. I’m not much help here.”
I grinned, ignoring the battle between Daniel and Zix in the background. Was Zix winning? Nah. Daniel was strong! He could handle it just fine… I think.
I bit my lower lip as I saw both Kobolds make their approach towards us. The [Rogue] was stumbling, not as fast as he originally was. And while that made me eager to deal with him first, I noticed how Hukba stood apprehensively behind him. Before, she confidently approached us. But now, she was keeping her distance.
Ever since I destroyed her defenses.
I glanced over at Edithe.
“Can you deal with the [Rogue] for a moment? I’ll take out Hukba and get back to you quickly.”
The red-haired woman hesitated. She chewed her lower lip, thinking about it for a second. Then she nodded.
“Don’t worry about me. Just do what you have to.”
[Self Haste] still ran through my body. It propelled me around as I shot straight for Hukba. The [Rogue] moved to intercept me, but Edithe aimed at him, raising her staff.
“Summon Grand Spirit—”
Both their gazes snapped at her. The [Rogue] growled and changed courses. Perhaps it would not have been effective if we were fighting any other opponents. But it was by chance that Edithe was a [Summoner]. And from what I was told by Xidra, Kobolds hated Spirits and Demons.
I did not turn to watch Edithe hold off the [Rogue]. I trusted in her abilities, so all I did was my job. [Ember Core] flared over the front of my body, taking the brunt of the black lightning as it struck at me. I focused the flame armor like a shield. It took the hit as I dashed straight up to Hukba.
She stumbled back, fear in her eyes as I grimaced. The lightning burned my skin. I powered through the attack until I reached her, and landed a kick enhanced by [Barrage of Cinders] on her stomach. I twisted around, creating a spear that flared with the Skill as Hukba raised a hand to block it.
“You shall not—”
I was faster than her. I jammed the spear straight through her chest, forcing her to stagger. She let out a groan, but I was not finished. Another fiery knee knocked her head up, and the spear shifted. It turned into a scythe— still impaled through her body— before I tore it through her side.
Hukba screamed and fell, the life leaving her body as I took a step back. A notification resounded in my head, but I did not waste any time listening to it. I was already running in Edithe’s direction.
She had a barrier of ice up, holding the [Rogue] back for brief moments. The barrier shattered and the Kobold stood over her, eyes flashing with rage.
“You heathen! Your foolishness only brings the end closer!”
Edithe lanced out a spear of ice at the [Rogue], but he clawed through it easily. He reached for Edithe, grabbing for her throat, but I knocked him aside with a strong kick. He went sailing through the dirt, stopping by a tree trunk.
I stood between the [Rogue] and Edithe, a hand held out.
“You did well, Edithe.”
She got to her feet, giving me a small smile. The Kobold man got back to his feet, growling.
“You shall die together.”
He took a deep breath, and let out a cone of flames my way. I narrowed my eyes, before releasing my own [Flaming Breath] his way. Our fires collided. Blue and red mixed together, burning the earth and the grass.
I watched as my fire slowly gave way to his, his flames stronger than mine. Maybe if I changed out of my Mortal Form... I took a step back, almost losing my balance, when I felt a hand catch me and steady me. Edithe nodded at me, holding my back.
“I can’t use most of my Skills, Salvos. But I can still use my magic.”
I was not sure what she meant, but she closed her eyes. She inhaled and let out a small sigh.
“Take it. Use what you can.”
I blinked as power suddenly surged through my body. I felt empowered. The blue flames shooting out of my mouth almost seemed to turn white. It was like I had [Passive - Refined Casting] once again.
I pressed forward as my [Flaming Breath] raged with more vigor than before. It ate away at the [Rogue]’s red flames. He drew back, seeing the wall of white come his way. He was backed up against a tree, his eyes filled with horror. Then he roared.
“Perish, you Human heathens!”
I gritted my teeth, walking forward.
“I told you—”
Another surge of energy shot through me. Edithe let go of me, collapsing to her knees. The cone of my flames grew wider. It completely engulfed his fire, then himself as I screamed.
“I am not a Human, you stupid Kobolds!”
The [Rogue] let out a cry as he was wreathed in flames. His body burned and dropped as I breathed on, until finally he stopped moving. I let out a sigh, smoke puffing out of my mouth.
“That was… awesome, Edithe! What was that?”
The red-haired woman picked herself up, offering me a soft reply.
“Combination casting. Magic from two, not just one.”
I gasped, looking at her in awe. I was just about to ask her more about it, when I heard a loud grunt from behind me. I turned around, seeing Daniel crash and roll to a stop. He let out a groan.
“Aw, you lost? Come on, Daniel!”
I threw a hand up as I ran over next to him. He gave me a half-glare. But he gave up a moment after. I heard the flapping of wings. I glanced up at Zix as he hovered in the air, looking over us.
“Hrmph, it seems Hukba and Dax have failed. So have Gaxo and Vala.”
His gaze turned towards the camp behind us. I spotted the two bodies of the Level 90 Kobolds amongst the myriad of dead Humans that they brought down before they fell. Zix shook a head.
“Truly a shame. We must have underestimated the fighting power of Humans. No matter— that simply means we’ll have to come back stronger.”
I raised a fist at Zix. I saw his brows raise fractionally.
“You’ve got that right! You called me weak! And I killed your companions!”
“Yes, a mistake is a mistake. Do not worry, Human. I will rectify it.”
“Wait, what do you mean—”
Zix turned in the air and flew off. I blinked, caught off guard for a moment. Then I dashed after him, creating a fire bow.
“You don’t get to run!”
I loosed Refined Blazing Bolt after him. The powerful magic flew unimpeded his way. It would not miss. I had good aim. But Zix spun around, once again overcome with that same image behind him. He swatted away the Refined Blazing Bolt like it was nothing, tearing the ground and the trees up in the process.
I halted to a stop as the attack just barely missed me, and was forced to watch as Zix got away. I sighed, turning around dejected and returning to Daniel and Edithe. I was about to reprimand the [Hero] even more for losing his battle, when I noticed him giving the red-haired woman a weird look.
The pair just stood there, almost unmoving, even as I made my approach. I opened my mouth, but Edithe spoke first.
“I leveled up, Salvos.
She slowly turned around, staring at me with round eyes.”
“I… got a Class advancement.”