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159. A Heroic Act

 

Edithe felt her heart racing as she followed the Lich down the dilapidated steps. They were covered in moss and lichen— part of the aesthetic of the ancient garden, overgrowing with dead plants and blight flowers. Taking in a deep breath... she almost puked.

The stench here was far more rancid than anything she had ever smelled before. It was a beautiful perfume of death and disease. The only thing that could’ve made this little night stroll better was a few corpses added to the mix.

And there they were. Edithe saw the glints— she caught sight of the frozen redheads. They stood in varying degrees of defiance and fear, a stark contrast to the more resigned women in the bedroom.

There were dozens of them. Maybe even over a hundred alone, just out in the garden. This was the fate that awaited Edithe. Faced with the Lich, entrenched in a myriad of lies, there would come a time when it all came cascading down, and with nothing else to die, she would die.

She was afraid. More than she had ever been before. It wasn’t something like the company war, where there was a chance of fighting back. The Lich was far above her level. Anything she attempted would result in her death.

“It is beautiful, is it not, my Lilian?”

The Lich’s voice was ethereal— creepy. It sent shivers down her spine, especially with the cold aura he seemed to exude.

“It is indeed beautiful, my Zacharius.”

She copied his speech pattern. That was the only hope she had in fooling him long enough for Salvos and Daniel to arrive. Except… could they even find her? It wasn’t even close to midnight. There were still a few more hours to go before she should blow the Horn of the Caller.

Well, she could try it now. But would her friends even be ready?

“Everything we touch turns to gold, my dear Lilian. If only they understood that. They’re too afraid. They are far too obsessed with doctrine of a time long gone. The Immortal King Alexander fooled them. He has led them all astray.”

Edithe heard a crack. She glanced down, seeing the balled fists of the Lich. His hand was shaking, trembling, as if overcome with anger. The first real sign of emotion he showed, beyond his deep obsession for Lilian.

“The world is ending, but he has erased it all from their memories. Instead, he formed a pact with the Spirit Lord and turned necromancy into a scorned art, just so Spirit summoning may reign. He threatens the very existence of the Nexeus for his own gain. What a… capitalistic pig!”

The Lich’s eyes burned with fury, the kind that chilled Edithe with fear of reprisal just from standing near him. And yet, there was something to what he said which piqued her interest. Against her better judgement, she spoke slowly, drawing the Lich’s attention.

“And yet, the Kobolds still oppose us.”

She flinched when the Lich twisted his neck to face her. But what she said was true. At least, partially. Everyone knew that it was the Kobolds who slew Lilian and Zacharius. With a bated breath, Edithe waited for the Lich’s response.

“Yes, they oppose us. Even when we offered their Scale Guard peace. A chance to work together for a better future. They met with us and betrayed us. Broke the treaty. Took my life from me. And killed my beautiful Lilian—”

He paused. Edithe’s eyes grew wide in fear. Was this it for her?

“Why are you…?”

But the Lich shook his head.

“My mistake. They took you away from me. Temporarily. But I have found you now, my darling Lilian. And I have brought you back to me.”

“Yes…”

Edithe didn’t pry any further. If she said anything else— he’d have her head. She got lucky, this time. It wouldn’t happen again.

“They took everything from me. But slowly, I am regaining it all. My memories. My beautiful Lilian. All of it. Once I have it all back, I’ll be able to finally do what is right. I’ll be able to save the world.”

“With me by your side, of course, yes?”

The Lich nodded, a satisfied look passing over his skull face.

“Yes, together.”

Edithe’s heart was beating faster and faster. But it was no longer of fear. What the Kobolds said was true— this was all the confirmation she needed. Salvos wouldn’t care. However, if she could somehow convince Hadrian and Baris that this was true… maybe even find proof in the history books… then something could be done.

She was excited. But that feeling was snuffed out as the Lich turned to her.

“Ah, yes, I’ve almost forgotten. My beautiful Lilian, I have a request for you.”

“What is it, my h-handsome Zacharius?”

He moved his jaw, the teeth clattering with no muscle to move them. But an ethereal voice still seeped out.

“I have lost my [Hero] Class in death, my dear Lilian. Without it, I am far too weak to carry out my duty to protect the Nexeus. However, now that you’re here, your great magic will surely restore me of what I’ve lost, yes?”

Edithe froze. What could she say? She highly doubted that even the real Lilian would be able to return his lost Class to him. If it was never preserved in the first place, that meant that Lilian couldn’t do it.

That was the only valid response, right?

“I apologize, my dear Zacharius. It is not within my domain of power. If I were able to cast such grand magic—”

“Oh, you jest! You are the greatest [Necromancer] to have walked this world. If not you, then it is impossible.”

Edithe jerked as he grabbed her arm. He brought his face close to hers, a peering gaze that stared straight into her soul.

“I-I c-cannot—”

“You must jest, my Lilian. Unless… you are not truly my Lilian, are you?”

Was this how the other women met their end? He made a demand for something that no soul could possibly accomplish?

She breathed deeply, trying to steel herself. Speaking placatingly, she raised a hand.

“My Zacharius, I assure you—”

Edithe ripped a dagger out of her pocket, stabbing it at the Lich’s arms. He hissed as he stumbled back, his bones rapidly decaying as he looked down in shock.

“This is… corrosion magic?”

She pointed at him.

“[Arrow of the Flame Elemental]!”

A fiery bolt struck the skull of the Lich. It sent him reeling back, blowing his head off his neck. It didn’t smash it into a thousand pieces. It was just something else to delay him.

Spinning around, Edithe pulled out the Horn of the Caller and blew it with all her strength, Then she ran deeper into the garden, hearing the heavy thumping of her heart, and the screams of a maddened Lich behind her.

“YyyyYOOuuuuUU aRE NoT mY LILIANNNNNNNNNNN!”

Edithe pocketed the Horn of the Caller and the Fangs of the Devouring Deep. It was a good thing she kept the weapon with her. The Lich would heal from any attack inflicted upon him. But the corrosion magic would allay his regeneration.

It would buy her time. Hopefully enough for Salvos and Daniel to arrive.

Snow began to descend from the sky. The ground was covered in a thin sheet of sleet. Edithe sighed a misty breath, knowing that they had to come soon.

 

***

 

Defeated [Ghoul of Despair - Lvl. 108]!

Experience is awarded for defeating an enemy!

 

 

Defeated [Wight - Lvl. 109]!

Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy with the help of others!

 

Class [Adept of the Fae] Level Up!

[Adept of the Fae - Lvl. 20] -> [Adept of the Fae - Lvl. 21]

Gained 2 Secondary Skill Points!

 

Class [Adept of the Fae] Level Up!

[Adept of the Fae - Lvl. 21] -> [Adept of the Fae - Lvl. 22]

Gained 2 Secondary Skill Points!

 

“Did you hear that?

“I did, Salvos.”

I exchanged glances with Daniel. It wasn’t midnight. Not even close. And yet, Edithe used the Horn of the Caller. That meant—

“She’s in trouble. Come on!”

Dashing forward, I cast [Haste] on my companion. He ran forward as I felt a sharp pain running through my back. My [Wings of the Netherworld] spread wide as I took off into the air, the Herald’s Brush in one hand, Daniel in the other.

There was a blight flower field ahead of me, in the direction I heard the blare of the Horn of the Caller. I couldn’t see past it. Not unless I removed the blight.

“Be useful, you stupid thing!”

I swung the Herald’s Brush. The smog— with a greenish hue at night— slowly vanished. I saw [Nightscourers] flying above me. I downed a mana potion as [The Primordial Spark] flared up around me. It was stronger now that I raised its level. I could create up to five weapons at once. I launched them at the flying undead, keeping them away from me.

Below, I saw a horde of Ghouls, Skeletons, [Zombies], and [Wights] giving chase after us. But they couldn’t reach us. I cleared the land of the blight, their flowers wilting rapidly as their foul magic was countered by the Herald’s Brush.

The curtain fell, and I spotted a castle in the distance. Ten miles was far. But I was over Level 100. I reached the keep moments later, still carrying Daniel.

A pair of black undead shot up after us. They were shrouded in a dark mist, wielding ethereal weapons as they came after us. I pursed my lip.

[Revenant - Lvl. 116]

[Revenant - Lvl. 118]

“Can you take care of them, Daniel?”

“Just find Edithe!”

I nodded, letting go of him. His sword was wreathed in a bright light as he fell on the first [Revenant]. It let out a shrill screech. The other tried to ignore him, but he pulled it by the leg, dragging it down with him.

I made laps over the decrepit castle, trying to spot the red-haired woman, wherever she could be. I caught glints of blue and white: figures made of ice, standing in courtyards, in balconies, in the garden—

A giant wall of ice shot up, and my eyes widened. There. I recognized that Skill— it was Edithe’s [Shield of the Misty Lord]. It was shattered a moment later. Dark clouds gathered over it as I dove straight down.

My body rippled with energy. My form shifted as cracks resounded from my body. I saw a figure looming over Edithe, her legs turning to ice.

I growled.

[Title Skill: Zealous Call]!

His head snapped my way. Edithe blinked as the magical ice stopped forming under her. She broke out as I zipped past the Lich.

“Over here, you stupid skeleton!”

The Lich’s eyes burned with fury and anger. The green flames filled his eye sockets entirely, his gaze trailing after me with pinpoint accuracy. I watched Edithe stumble away as the Lich raised a single finger at me.

“[Ray of Frost].”

I made a sudden turn as the beam of ice shot out. It froze everything in its path. Even the things it didn’t touch. Then the ice cracked, and the earth broke with it. [The Primordial Spark] blazed around me— a sphere of flaming armor that protected me from the freezing effects of the attack, even as I managed to avoid it entirely.

My fire froze, slowly breaking apart, just like everything else. But I mostly escaped unscathed. When I glanced back at the destruction wrought from that Skill, I saw half of the Lich’s keep had crumbled to the ground. The rest was still being kept up by some great magic, one that I didn’t spend time investigating the source of.

The Lich let out a roar.

“You Demon, how dare you. How DARE YOUUUUUUU!”

He was no longer under the effects of [Zealous Call]. And yet, he directed his rage at me. He clapped his hands together, and spikes of ice shot up from the ground. I weaved around the magical terrain, avoiding anything that jutted out, barely escaping with only the slightest of scratches.

“Salvos!”

A voice called out to me. I saw Edithe gesturing towards the keep and running in its direction.

“His phylactery— his life force— it’s in the throne room!”

I nodded.

“Go destroy it—”

I was cut off. I stopped flying. I didn’t know why, but I started freefalling. I looked back— and saw my wings were frozen. Turned to ice. They fell apart behind me, an agonizing pain that accompanied my descent. I glanced up, barely seeing a sphere of frozen ice falling with me.

The Lich lowered a hand, shaking his head.

“I had aimed for your head, but… your wings are fine too.”

I came crashing down before him as he spread his arms wide.

“Now, perish. [Rimebloom].”

 

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