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137. Haunt

More days passed as we traversed through the Plaguelands, getting closer and closer to our destination. While we did prioritize speed by avoiding unnecessary fights, we were still heading to a nebulous location. The fact that I knew of some landmarks to keep an eye out for didn’t mean that we were traveling in the exact direction we were supposed to go. Also, we couldn’t run from every fight, even if we really tried.

The Ghouls proved themselves to be rather problematic, chasing us with a speed that I could barely even match at times. We made an effort to avoid Ghouls to the best of our abilities, because if we saw them, we knew we would be forced into a prolonged chase or even a battle.

There were other undead in the Plaguelands that were not as fast as the Ghouls. Skeletons, [Wights], and these [Flesh Scum]— it was the first time I had seen them, and they were like walking corpses if you only removed their skin, each around Level 110— were relatively slow moving, so we didn’t have to fight them. The only other impediment we had to face came from the [Nightscourers].

We didn’t see much of them, but when we did, they came in a swarm. A large flock of [Nightscourers] harassed us for over a day, until we wiped them out entirely. Because of this, I leveled up twice.

Defeated [Ghoul of Fright - Lvl. 106]!

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 [Nightscourer - Lvl. 101]

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!

Subspecies [Asura Changeling] Level Up!

[Asura Changeling – Lvl. 90] -> [Asura Changeling – Lvl. 91]

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

Subspecies [Asura Changeling] Level Up!

[Asura Changeling – Lvl. 91] -> [Asura Changeling – Lvl. 92]

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

Perhaps it was because we were deep within the Plaguelands now— the undead we were facing were tougher, each giving more experience. Especially the Ghouls, since they weren’t swarm monsters. So, I felt like I was leveling faster.

The drawback was that each battle was more dangerous than against a group of brittle Skeletons, because not only did we still have to deal with the Skeletons, we also had to deal with the other undead in the Plaguelands. It was a trade-off— increased risks for increased rewards.

Salvos (Death of the Destroyer)

Species: [Greater Demon of Pride]

Subspecies: [Asura Changeling] - Lvl. 92

General Skills:

[Advanced Mana Manipulation] - Lvl. 6

[Identification] - Lvl. 5

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

[Racial Skill: Mortal Form] - Lvl. 4

[Rest] - Lvl. 4

[Lesser Enhanced Wisdom] - Lvl. 2

[Title Skill: Zealous Call] - Lvl. 3

Stats:

[Available Stat Points: 0]

[Vitality]: 100 (+5)

[Strength]: 80 (+5)

[Endurance]: 85 (+5)

[Wisdom]: 133 (+5) (+6)

[Agility]: 183 (+5)

Skills:

[Available Skill Points: 1]

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

[Barrage of Cinders] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)

[Ember Core] - Lvl. 12

[Flame Burst] - Lvl. 15 (Maxed)

[Flaming Breath] - Lvl. 5

[Intimidation] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Radiant Slash] - Lvl. 13

[Self Haste] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)

[Passive - A Hunter’s Sense] - Lvl. 5

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

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

I raised [Flame Burst] to its max, considering that it was one of my most useful Skills right now. The same went for [Barrage of Cinders] and [Intimidation]. I also progressed in my own magical abilities— not just through leveling, but with what I could do with the spell I had learned. It hovered around me, like some kind of twinkling star.

It was not entirely useful just yet. But I eyed it— its potential— and I knew there was a lot more to learn about it. Dismissing the flaming orb, I turned my attention towards the city before us. Broken buildings jutted out of the ground like dangerous spikes. It had been a proper city once, with a wall that girdled its perimeter, and maybe even a castle’s keep somewhere within.

Maybe it had streets bustling with life, a rich market full of thriving merchants, and an Adventurers Guild where young men and women pursued their dreams of glory and triumph. It might have even had temples scattered throughout it— worshipping the Spirits that were summoned into this plane.

The people living here might have even relied on the adventurers and Spirits to help protect them in the case of a Kobold invasion. The odd-shaped mountain neighboring it would have served as a good natural defense against an attack. Monsters might have lived there, but how was that anything adventurers couldn’t deal with?

Regardless, that was all gone now. What lay before us was a husk of a city. It was in an even worse shape than the towns Lucerna had rampaged through, razed down to nothing but ashes. I had been here once before. However, I was alone and lost. I didn’t really pay much attention to its state back then as I was busy trying to find a way back to Ghostlight.

“This is it.”

I spoke simply, drawing the attention of my companions. The pair exchanged a glance before facing me.

“Are you sure?”

Edithe asked, looking back at the city. I was certain she could see what I saw— the way the blight almost seemed to disappear around the city’s edges. She knew. She just wanted to make sure that I did too.

“I’m certain.”

Stepping forward, I gestured for the two Humans to follow after. They walked at my back without protesting, proof that they trusted my directions, no longer dubious of my navigational skills. Well, I wasn’t exactly all that confident of myself. However, in this case, I knew I was right.

We reached the outer edges of the city undisturbed. No undead lurked around this area. Did it have to do with the lack of blight? Edithe told me that Skeletons and Ghouls and other such undead could exist outside of the Plaguelands. It was just that they were drawn to a blight, like wild Demons to their prey.

I felt the pressure of the unholy magic leave my shoulder— it didn’t make me move slower or make me weaker— it simply made it more tiring for me to do most things. Which wasn’t much of an issue as long as I had a supply of potions. We walked through the empty, broken city, tracing the steps I had taken during that vision. Or… the direction I had flown.

“You said you went underground, didn’t you?”

I turned around as Daniel asked the question. He scratched a hand on his chin, staring down at the stone and debris scattered across the dirt ground.

“Why don’t we just use magic to burrow down?”

Edithe shook her head.

“Firstly, neither Salvos nor I are [Geomancers]. And even if we were, we wouldn’t know where to go. We may just dig straight down and fall off the world.”

Daniel raised a brow. He said nothing. Although I knew what he was thinking— from what he told me about his world, Earth, it was spherical. Meanwhile, the Nexeus was not, and he found it stupid. I didn’t really care either way.

Shrugging, the Human man kicked a pebble aside as he trudged behind us through the desolate streets.

“I just think it’s better than searching through every fallen building for a hole that goes straight down to an underground cavern.”

“I didn’t go down a hole, Daniel.”

I shook my head, stopping right by a still-standing home. I poked at its side— and it collapsed, crumbling into a pile of dust.

“Why do old things always do that?”

“Because they’re old.”

Daniel crossed his arms. He glanced around, sweeping his gaze through the city.

“So, if you didn’t go down a hole, what happened?”

“I was snapped around buildings until I was pulled to the ground. I simply went through— it was a vision, not reality.”

We continued searching, scouring the entirety of the broken city until night fell. When morning came the day after, we finally found the spot I was sucked down.

“This… temple structure… this was what you last saw?”

I glanced around the ruins— there was a pillar standing in one corner. It probably made up one of the foundations of the structure before it collapsed. And the tower I had seen was there too. It reminded me of a minaret, except the architecture was slightly different.

Tilting my head up slightly, I found myself staring at the mountain with a deep depression at the top. The sun was peeking over it, still rising as it was morning.

“Could this have been a Kobold city? Why do they have minarets here, anyway?”

“That’s not a minaret, Salvos.”

Edithe shook her head. She gestured at the tall tower.

“It’s an obelisk. It belongs to the Den of Souls— every one of their temples have an obelisk dedicated to the Spirit Lord. Although, this one seems worn out. The carvings on it too faded. If it wasn’t, you’d be able to see the Spirit Lord in all his majesty on each side.”

“Huh.”

I glanced about.

“Well, this was what I last saw before seeing nothing but darkness. This fallen temple, that obelisk, that weird mountain—”

“Volcano.”

Daniel felt the need to correct me too. I nodded.

“Right. Volcano. And that fallen part of the city’s wall there…”

I continued listing other things that were around us. I only paused as I realized Edithe was no longer listening, her attention fixed to the rising sun. She spoke softly.

“...that’s not a volcano, Daniel.”

The Human man blinked.

“It’s not?”

“Look at its peak— that’s not a caldera nor a crater. That’s a hole.”

She glanced back at him.

“That was done by magic.”

—--

Sure enough, we scaled to the top of the mountain and found a massive pit, falling straight down to total darkness. The three of us glanced between each other. I took a step forward.

“If you guys are too scared, I’ll go down first.”

I conjured the fiery orb, letting it hover by my side as I started climbing down the cliff face. Following my lead, Edithe created a ball of light while Daniel was forced to rely on her magic to even see. He grumbled as he almost slipped, losing his footing.

“Gah— I need my own magic. Or a torch.”

“You know a basic Light spell is easy to learn, right?”

Edithe peered at him, climbing at a slightly slower pace than me.

“You could always pick up a tome and spend a month or two learning it.”

“Or I could use a torch.”

“I wish I had wings.”

I sighed as my companions held their conversation above me. I felt the patter of dust and the occasional pebble hitting my head, but it never was more than a minor hindrance. I paused, having an idea. My body was lit ablaze, and Daniel faced me suspiciously.

“What are you doing, Salvos?”

“Trying something out with [Ember Core]!”

The armor slowly receded from most of my body as I focused it on my back. I molded its shape into that of wings— the same ones Hoxle had.

“You can do that?!”

Edithe stared at me, aghast. I looked at my wings.

“I guess so? The question is— do they work?”

“Wait, Salvos no—”

My companions called out at the same time. But they were too slow. I let go of the protruding rocksI had been grabbing onto, leaping down into the deep pit. I tried to move the fiery wings. And they did. But they didn’t flap like the wings of a bird or… wings. It was like they were flailing instead.

Also, they did nothing to slow my descent.

“Huh.”

I felt myself falling faster and faster, the light from Edithe’s spell almost vanishing as only my surroundings were lit up. I quickly created a kusarigama as the hole opened up around me into a larger cave chamber. I tossed the sickle edge of the weapon at the rock wall, grabbing tightly onto the chains with my four arms.

The kusarigama wedged itself deep into the stone as I clung on, pulling myself closer to the sloped earth. I slid down the rest of the way before letting the fire weapon dissipate, landing with a roll.

“That didn’t work.”

Scowling, I let the winged [Ember Core] vanish, returning back to the armored form it usually took on. I waited for my companions to reach the very bottom as well. The pair said nothing, just giving me a judging stare.

“What?”

I looked between both of them. I spread my arms out defensively.

“It was an experiment! Also— I’m Level 92! I never would’ve died from that!”

“Let’s just continue.”

There was only one way to go, and that was through a large passageway leading further down. I was feeling optimistic about it— I remembered seeing a tunneled entrance to the cave chamber that held the Herald’s Brush.

My companions took the lead, to which I begrudgingly allowed. They were too cautious sometimes! Experiments required risks!

Eventually, we found ourselves entering the same massive cavern I had seen in my vision. There were stalactites hanging off the ceiling, with a thin layer of mist filling the cave, almost blocking our vision. We waded our way further in, until we could make out the island sitting in the middle of the lake. I spoke softly.

“There it is.”

“How are we going to make it across?”

Daniel hesitated, shuffling his feet. Edithe and I looked over at him as he averted his gaze.

“I, uh, can’t swim.”

“You can’t?”

The red-haired woman shot him a piercing gaze. He shrunk back.

“I can’t swim well. Maybe I can waddle over— but that’s…”

“Embarrassing.”

Her words cut straight through him. He stumbled back.

“Look— I just never had to learn how to, alright?”

I rolled my eyes, dipping a hand into the water.

“It’s not even that deep, Daniel. It’s kind of shallow, actually. We can just walk across—”

I paused, feet raised and about to step into the lake. My eyes grew wide as my companions turned to me. The words resounded in my head as I took a step back instead, scratching my cheek almost shyly.

“This lake… is going to be a tiny bit tough to cross.”

The pair didn’t even manage to get a word out as the chill ran over us. A kind of frost that cooled at our skin, but didn’t actually freeze our bodies. Instead, it cursed us.

Now Entering [Lair: Haunt of the Wights ].



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MelasD

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