Daniel did not fully agree with my plan to find the Lich and fight or befriend it. I could see where he was coming from, and while I was insistent, it did not actually change our current plans and routine.
That was: get up in the morning, fight Skeletons in the Plaguelands, and return for my companions’ rest at night.
Only when we were confident enough in our levels would we even inquire on the Lich’s whereabouts and his approximate level. I was slightly worried that he might have been so far beyond us that he could kill us with a glance of his eyes, but apparently that was not possible.
Or at least, not possible for him.
“The Lich is said to be the remnants of Zacharius the Quisling, created from the [Necromancer] Lilian. Considering that you can’t store all of your power within a phylactery, he could not be as high leveled as he was in life. Nor can they even level as a Lich.”
“And how high leveled was he?’
I raised a curious brow. Edithe shrugged.
“Not as high leveled as Alexander, that’s for sure. And Alexander was at the peak of Humanity. He is believed to have been Level 206 in at least one of his Classes when he was slain by Regnorex.”
Even if the Lich was at only Level 100, he was still a danger to be taken seriously. He kept his Class from his life. Meaning, he would still be a [Hero] and have access to his [Hero] Skills. That meant the Lich would be stronger than even Zix who was almost 10 levels above him— by a wide margin!
And 10 levels meant a lot. If a Level 30 Human had a special Class and even a Title, it was possible they would be able to take on dozens others at Level 20 at once. Perhaps even a hundred. Nothing was certain, of course. It depended a lot on the Class itself. The quality of their initial advancement, as well as the Title itself. Equipment too. However, it was still something that could happen.
“Maybe if they were a [Hero].”
Edithe snorted. I glanced over at Daniel and a thought crossed my mind. He glared at me before I could make a comment, so I just grinned instead.
Days passed. We battled more Skeletons as I focused on practicing my magic. I would stay up all night, looking at the Runic Scroll of Starfall, trying to improve my magic.
I had leveled up in a General Skill— both [Advanced Mana Manipulation] and [Lesser Enhanced Wisdom]. I was certain that the former came from all this studying. Especially with Edithe teaching me how regular, basic spells were formed without a Skill.
The latter came as a surprise. I had no idea if it came from me practicing my magic, or from something else. Just based on the Skill name alone, I assumed it would have been a result of using my [Wisdom] Stat— even if it was done with [Barrage of Cinders]. Yet, I never received the Skill until now.
There was something else to it. It certainly was a rare General Skill, according to Edithe.
“I have heard of individuals gaining such a Skill, but usually it would only be later on in their life. I don’t think the Valiant Dreamers Company had much of a record on it either.”
I perked up.
“Could it be because I’m becoming more wise?”
She exchanged a glance with Daniel. He shrugged. They spoke at the same time.
I did not expect them to give a serious answer. However, if I really was becoming more wise— at least, in the way of how Mortals acted— that was a good thing. Maybe I would be able to blend in better. I could impress Xidra the next time around I visited Unarith!
When I first got the General Skill, I received an addition +5 to my [Wisdom] from it. Now, it was a +6. If I got it up to Level 10, would it get to +15?
That was a major boon, if it was how it worked. But considering that General Skills leveled slower— and had a lower level cap— I was not sure how long it would take me to even get that far.
The single Skill Point did not make a massive difference, but I could tell I was stronger from it. Especially since I was leveling faster now. I could even kill a small group of [Unarmed Skeletons] with a single [Flaming Breath] now.
It would incinerate them. Turn them to nothing but ashes. It was not as devastating as Gexli’s flaming breath. In fact, he had two of them. And both were terrifyingly dangerous. One of them worked just like mine, but the other shot out like an arrow, destroying everything in its path.
I tried to remember how the strands of mana coalesced into that ball of great fire. How it was propelled by some powerful force. If I could do something like that with my Blazing Bolt— or Refined Blazing Bolt… it was something to consider. If I weaved the magic into itself again and again, concentrating it into a denser bolt, I could potentially make it stronger, even if more unstable.
It was something I tried whenever we were not busy fighting the undead. I would create a Blazing Bolt, refine it into a Refined Blazing Bolt, then continue layering the magic on top of itself. Usually, it would burst out into sparks, failing to become anything I hoped it would be.
“Salvos, focus— Skeletons incoming.”
Defeated [Unarmed Skeleton - Lvl. 99]!
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 [Ghoul of Dread - Lvl. 106]!
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. 86] -> [Asura Changeling – Lvl. 87]
Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!
We fought some Ghouls too. There were different kinds of Ghouls. It was mostly their curses which had different effects. A [Ghoul of Dread] seemed to drain me of my mana instead. Which was problematic since that was my main source of attack power.
I would have to attack them aggressively. I bounded on all six of my limbs onto them, unleashing a flurry of strikes that would break their curse. It was more effective the more idle they were being, so such tactics worked even if they were dangerous.
So far, Ghouls were the most dangerous thing we had to deal with. However, it seemed we were starting to tread into more risky territory the further into the Plaguelands we went. We had just finished defeating a group of [Skeleton Warriors] and [Skeleton Archers] when we decided it was time to return.
“Blight flower fields to the left. Blight flower fields to the right. Blight flower fields everywhere.”
I shook my head, turning back to Daniel and Edithe. The latter seemed slightly weary— she had been pushing herself harder and harder with each passing day. She was Level 78 now. Thanks to her persistence, she managed to close the gap between our levels by a significant amount.
I was still almost 10 levels higher than her.
“We’ve made good progress in two weeks, Salvos. But I think it’s time we should think about heading back to Huthwaite. Just for respite.”
Daniel spoke as he wiped the grime and sweat off his face. Smearing a bit of smudge across his cheeks, he grimaced. I tilted my head up to the sky in thought.
“I don’t know… maybe we should—”
He sighed, rubbing at his temples. I grinned.
“I’m kidding. Yep. I was just thinking that myself.”
Blinking, he gave me a dubious look. I shrugged and pointed to Edithe.
“She’s looking kinda tired. So, I agree.”
It took a moment for the red-haired woman to be taken aback.
“I… I am?”
She placed a hand on her chest, surprised. I exchanged a glance with Daniel, and he nodded.
“Yeah… you’re exhausted, Edithe. Even Salvos can tell.”
“I’m just a little bit tired. Look, I don’t want to be a burden—”
“Except you’re not.”
I emphatically rejected that statement. Her face scrunched up. Her confusion was evident. But I was defiant.
“You’re not a burden, Edithe. You don’t have to push yourself too hard. We’re doing this for you, not the other way around.”
She trailed off. Taking a deep breath, she sagged her shoulders.
“You’re right. I know I’m being too hard on myself lately. We’ll take a break. Hang around Huthwaite— take a look around.”
A small smile spread across her face.
“And since we’re all about that whole changing-growing thing lately, maybe we can even find a food you like, Salvos.”
“Good luck, because I don’t think that’ll ever happen.”
Daniel scoffed. I crossed my arms, agreeing with him.
“Nope! Never gonna happen.”
They laughed, and I giggled too. We needed to relax— it was necessary for the Humans. Not really for me. I grew up in a place exactly like the Plaguelands, but they did not. I had to accommodate them more than I did before.
It was a weird quirk! However, I was probably weird to them. So, it evened out.
Unfortunately, it seemed we let our guard down at a bad time. The thing about the Plaguelands— and about the Netherworld— was that anything could happen at any time. Be it a procession of sapient Demons herding Infant Demons with them, or a sudden attack by a group of [Hellhounds], [Hellbeasts], and [Gadarenes].
Here, in the Plaguelands, there were none of those. But there were still a myriad of dangers lurking about. We were just passing through an abandoned, destroyed town with its mossy cobble foundations left where the buildings once were. The wood had been rotted away, leaving only the framework of what were once houses. Some of them were in better condition than others. Which only obscured the [Wights] even more.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted one of those ethereal creatures poke its disfigured head from behind a wall. I snapped in its direction, conjuring a kusarigama at the ready.
My warning was interrupted as a second [Wight] popped out of a fallen structure. It pointed a single crooked finger at us— and the ground glowed. It shone as a circle girdled us within its perimeter. I leapt back as Daniel and Edithe followed after me, shouting.
“Be careful of their magic!”
The red-haired woman pulled away just in time for a frozen ball to crystalize where we had been standing. My eyes grew wide as I saw even more [Wights] lumber forth from where they had been hiding. That spell was powerful.
[Wight - Lvl 109]
[Wight - Lvl. 112]
[Wight - Lvl. 108]
I did not even consider fighting them. I shouted.
A [Flaming Breath] spewed out at the oncoming [Wights]. The blue flames burned at their blue bodies. It was hot— it blazed more brilliantly than it ever had. I was certain it was at least hurting the undead a little bit. But they did not slow.
They continued forward unimpeded. They were not fast, but their movements were so smooth it was like they were hovering instead of walking. An encroaching chill overcame me as I felt my mana drain from their curses.
I tapped my greaves together, activating its effects and following after my companions who were already fleeing from the scene. I focused my magic on the sickle edge of my kusarigama, altering the threads of mana within it, before tossing it as a Sickle Grenade at the [Wights].
I roared. The blast was powerful. It would have sent a Ghoul flying back. And yet, the [Wights] still came. They were not slowed by its attack. I growled as [Self Haste] took over.
“Stupid things! Can’t they feel anything?!”
It seemed that only the Ghouls were even slightly intelligent here in the Plaguelands, even if they were still wild. I swooped my companions up into my arms as I sped past them. I saw a thicket of dead trees up ahead, ready to escape into the shadows from our pursuers. But glowing eyes stopped me in my tracks.
A Ghoul— no, three Ghouls stepped out from behind the spindly, black trunks. They had [Skeleton Archers] by their side, bows aimed at the ready. The volley of bolts filled the air. I watched their shadows come our way as I spun around.
A group of [Wights] at our rear, coming from the broken town. Ghouls and Skeletons were waiting for us at the dead forest up ahead. To our right and left— fields of blight flowers. I took a deep breath.
“Ready your potions.”
I gave my companions a look. They exchanged a knowing glance, steeling themselves for what was to come.
Daniel pried himself off my arms, giving me a reassuring look as he held onto my hand with one arm, and his sword in the other. Edithe stayed on my shoulders, her staff aimed at the ready.
We broke off to the side, heading for neither the Ghouls nor the [Wights]. Instead, we charged straight for the veil of brown miasma billowing up into the air. It formed a wall. One that had been impenetrable before. Vile magic was being spewed out from these corrupted flowers. It would afflict us like a curse.
And yet, we had no other choice. This was the only way we could run. I saw no figures inside of blight. Perhaps it was because it was so dense here. Too thick for me to see through. Because I knew they were there. They were the less dangerous foe, but they were present. And they were numerous.
They were here, even if I had not seen them yet. The horde of undead. The ones that hid under this blanket, waiting mindlessly, hiding from sight. But ready to swarm anyone who entered at any moment.