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156. Weak Hero

[Lich - Lvl. 143]

“Hello, my beautiful Lilian. It has been so long since I last saw you.”

An ethereal voice spoke out, wispy, as if his words were made of smoke. I aimed the Nebular Bow at him, feeling a chill creep up my shoulders, wrangling around my neck, threatening to suffocate me.

“You’re… the Lich? There’s no one here called Lilian. What do you want?”

I was excited to meet him. He was supposed to be a Human who transcended the need to sleep or eat. A [Hero] who came to this world and became incredibly powerful unlike Daniel. However, I was now nervous. Afraid, even.

Because he didn’t come here to befriend us. The magic I sensed gathering around him— it was filled with the intent to kill.

“Foolish Demon.”

He spoke dismissively, his flaming eyes flickering. His sable robes were untouched by the gust of wind billowing behind him, blaring like the alarms in my head, warning me to flee. I stood my ground as a cackle left his unhinged jaw.

“I have slain thousands of your kind with only my left hand, and brought down those far above your level with only my right. Do not challenge me or you will perish.”

I didn’t back down. Flame and ember engulfed my being as my companions readied themselves for this powerful enemy.

“Tell us why you’ve come here, Lich.”

Daniel boldly stepped forward on wobbly legs. He was still drunk. That idiot.

The Lich’s head tilted. He peered at the [Hero]. There was a moment’s pause as his flaming eyes seemed to burn through the Human man. Finally, he shook his head, disappointed.

“Pathetic.”

“Hey! You don’t get to call him pathetic!”

I stood beside my companion, nodding. Daniel blinked, facing me.

“Salvos…”

“Just because he’s weak, and stupid, and very bad at fighting despite being a [Hero], doesn’t mean he’s pathetic at all! Unlike you, he’s still alive!”

“...why did I think you’d actually defend me?”

Daniel sighed as I shot him a thumbs-up. The Lich ignored us. His gaze slid over our slipper figures, resting gently at Edithe.

“Ah, Lilian, you haven’t aged a day since I last saw you.”

Edithe narrowed her eyes.

“Wait, you’re talking to me? I’m not Lilian—”

He almost seemed to hover as he drew closer. We tensed as he continued.

“Why did you leave me, my darling? My gorgeous red flower. My…”

His voice trailed off. A word was said, but I couldn’t understand it. I rubbed my ears as Daniel cringed.

Edithe stared at him.

“What was that?”

“My lovely Lilian. Come here…”

Again, the word was cut off. I cocked my head as I saw Daniel buried his face in his hands.

“What’s he saying? He’s speaking English, right?”

The Human man nodded. Slowly, he faced me with his red cheeks, murmuring in English.

“He’s saying ‘my bae’. He’s calling Edithe ‘bae’.”

“Huh.”

I didn’t really get what was wrong with it, but Daniel was overwhelmed with embarrassment. Edithe was confused as well. But she didn’t have time to voice her thoughts as the Lich decided the time for talk was over.

“Return my beloved to me, and you will have my eternal gratitude. Keep her, and know that no salvation awaits your future.”

He was mad. He thought Edithe was Lilian, ignoring her words that she was not. We had no choice. I wasn’t just going to part ways with my companion because a bag of walking bones told me to. This would be our toughest fight yet. But just as we defeated Lucerna, we’d beat him back.

I glanced over at Edithe, and she nodded.

“No.”

I spoke simply, loosing the Nebular Arrow straight at him. The bolt slowed, being covered from its tip in a frozen box. It halted mid-air, before dropping to the ground and shattering into tiny icicles. I narrowed my eyes.

The Nebular Arrow wasn’t hot, per se. However, its base form was still created from fire. It shouldn’t have been frozen like that. Not that easily.

“Weak—”

The Lich didn't finish. Edithe leapt to the side, unleashing a blazing arrow straight at him. He raised a hand in her direction, creating a wall of solid ice. A powerful blast erupted from Edithe’s Skill, but it left not even a dent on the mirror-like surface.

“Daniel!”

My body was shifting. I beat my foot forward, placing my two arms on the ground to steady myself. More arms sprouted out next to my shoulders as I morphed into a taller, hunched form with a skull-like face.

The Human man placed a hand on my shoulder, nodding.

“[The Will of the Hero]!”

 

Stats:

[Available Stat Points: 0]

[Vitality]: 123 (+5) (+5%) (+10%)

[Strength]: 100 (+5) (+5%) (+10%)

[Endurance]: 108 (+5) (+5%) (+10%)

[Wisdom]: 184 (+5) (+6) (+5%) (+10%)

[Agility]: 241 (+5) (+5%) (+10%)

 

Edithe was knocked back by a strong gust of icy wind. Her body was coated in a thin layer of ice. However, it didn’t freeze her. It shattered her barrier, but the magic grew immensely weaker when it reached her.

I leapt past the flying red-haired woman, my claws being overcome with a black flame. I barreled straight for the Lich, dodging spikes of ice as they shot out of the ground. A burst of flame carried me over it, [Haste] taking effect on me and my companions.

“Kneel.”

I pointed at the Lich as I descended upon him, a falling star from above. The Lich’s fiery eyes dimmed for a moment. He stood still, unable to react.

“[Radiant Slash]!”

And I dug my claws deep into his chest. They tore through his robes— there was some kind of protective enchantment there. But it broke under the pressure from my attack. His bones caved in, his ribs shattering, his skull flying off his spine.

A grin spread across my face as I bared my teeth.

But no words resounded in my head.

“What…?”

The fallen skull moved its jaw.

“[Rimebloom].”

I leapt away as the Lich spoke. But it was too late. The ground beneath the pile of bones turned death-white. A sphere of ice exploded out, instantly freezing everything within its radius. It consumed the whole town, spreading out into the field of blight flowers and the rolling flatlands, turning it all into a frozen sculpture.

My companions— perhaps it was because they were far enough away, they managed to react. They used my [Haste] to flee, caught only at the edge of the ice blast. But even with my Greaves of the Wanderer, I couldn’t avoid the attack. I was sent flying away, my flaming armor shattering into pieces, and my Pendant of Greater Protection losing its magic.

A thin layer of frost crept over my body. I tore it away, breathing heavily.

“How did he do that?”

I stared at the Lich as his body slowly repaired itself, the fallen bones flying back up to his body as he sauntered over to his skull, picking it back up. Edithe coughed as she picked herself back up.

“He’s a Lich— we can’t destroy his body. We have to find the place where his life force is stored.”

“But that means…”

We couldn’t kill him. Even if we threw the most powerful spells and attacks his way, the Lich would always survive it.

He couldn’t be defeated.

Spinning around, he faced us. He said nothing, his time for talk over. Raising a hand to the sky, he spoke softly.

“[Comet Hail—”

“[Hero’s Slash]!”

Daniel swung his blade over his head. The weapon gleamed with a white energy that lit up the night. The Lich caught the Human man by the arm, a freeze grip that halted his attack entirely. The energy was released past the Lich. The remnants of white light striking out, tearing down the frozen houses to the ground.

“I know all your tricks, boy. I have walked your footsteps. I have done more than you could ever hope to accomplish.”

The [Hero] struck out at the Lich with his free hand. A deafening thud echoed as I rushed over to help him. His fist connected, but it didn’t even leave a crack on the skull. The Lich shook his head.

“[Comet Hail].”

The sky darkened. The mist from before gathered into clouds above. White clouds. One that rained meteors of ice. My eyes widened as I saw chunks of frozen rock falling at the earth, moving faster than even the arrows of the [Skeleton Archers]. It tore apart the earth, a powerful magic that would permanently change the landscape into a field of craters.

I bounded around the falling ice meteors, watching as my companion struggled helplessly in the Lich’s grasps. There was a crack. A scream. And I reached the Lich, striking at him from behind with a [Barrage of Cinders].

It forced him to let go of Daniel. I broke his brittle bones with six rapid strikes. Then I grabbed him and tossed him into one of his own falling comets. The large chunk of ice smashed him back down. It exploded on him and dug deep into the earth.

But that wasn’t all. [Demon’s Mark]. The pillar of crimson flames shot out of the earth, its heat felt even from where I stood. It melted the Lich’s ice. The frozen wasteland he turned this place into was now being dried up in an instant.

I bent over Daniel. He wasn’t moving.

“Daniel, are you—”

I paused. His right arm was limp. But more than that, it was entirely shattered. I could see the whites of his bone peeking out of his skin, blood seeping out around it, instantly freezing from the extreme weather.

“Healing potion, where’s the healing potion?”

“Behind you, Salvos!”

Edithe called out as she blew apart a falling comet. I spun around, letting out a plume of blue fire from my mouth with a roar. The Lich returned with a cold breath. A zephyr that froze even my most powerful flames.

“Begone, Demon.”

He flicked a finger, and a lance of ice shot at my shoulder. I stumbled back, gritting my teeth.

“You—”

I gathered everything I had. Right now, I was stronger than I have ever been. I raged with my fire, baring my teeth at him. [The Primordial Spark] erupted like a wildfire that spread out at the Lich.

But he shook his head.

“[Ray of Frost].”

It was a simple sounding Skill. It didn’t sound like it’d do much. And yet, as he raised his hand, a beam of ice shot out and cut through the earth. It didn’t just dig a shallow hole, one that barely scratched the ground’s surface. It left a scar behind where it cut.

It opened up a canyon where it touched the earth. A massive crevice that fell deeper than even the deepest caves I have ever been in. It came at me, a magic that made my most powerful flames wink out of existence in a mere moment.

I braced for the attack. It would kill me. But I couldn’t dodge it. Not this. It came—

“Stop!”

A voice called out. Edithe stood before me, her arms spread wide. The Lich’s magic… disappeared. A ravine lay before her. But she stood in defiance against this destruction.

“I’ll go with you. Just please, don’t hurt my friends.”

I stared at her.

“What are you doing, Edithe?”

She glanced back at me, a wry smile on her face. Behind her, the tempest of ice comets came to a halt. The Lich approached her, joy clear in his voice.

“You’ve finally come back to me, Lilian. Yes, they may live. Thank you for bringing her to me. Oh, thank you.”

His tone changed. He sounded grateful towards us. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but he took Edithe by the arms from behind. I sputtered.

“You—”

“Salvos.”

She placed a hand on my shoulder. Slowly, both her arms wrapped around my neck. She shook her head and whispered.

“Take Daniel and get out of here.”

The Lich pulled her away as she drew her hands back. I paused, seeing what was in her hand. Nodding, I hefted the Human man over my shoulder. I ran off before the Lich could change his mind, although he likely wouldn’t.

He was too preoccupied with Edithe. He didn’t even look once at me as I disappeared into the distance. I glanced back, watching Edithe as she walked away, following after the Lich, heading to the northwest.

And then she was gone.

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