160. Lilian, My Lilian
The ground beneath the Lich turned white. An explosion of frost shot out, freezing everything within a dome around him. My eyes grew wide as the blast came. It chilled my skin, a layer of sleet that almost impeded my movement.
Still, I moved. If I didn’t, I would have died. I leapt out of the way, propelled by a burst of flames. Behind me, the wall of ice came. It froze everything it touched, even the flame barrier around me. It caught me by my legs, freezing it in an instant. I tumbled to the ground, struggling to move. I still had my six arms, but the damage done to my lower body was undeniable.
I whimpered as the Lich shook his head, approaching me.
“You shall suffer, Demon. You will not die a painless death.”
There was a flash. I spun around, creating a pair of flaming blades. They shot out at him, but he simply pointed. A cold breeze knocked up into the air. They exploded a bright blast up above. But it didn’t touch him.
“Did you really think I was lying when I said I have slain countless of your kind?”
Crawling away, I shot more flaming projectiles his way. They barely impeded him. He flicked a finger, and more cold wind sent them up and away from him. But I tugged at them, lancing them around his back. They pierced his spine— they tore through his tattered robes.
The Lich still walked. He didn’t care. Not for any harm I could inflict upon him. With a grunt, I created a Nebular Sickle Grenade. I hurled it as hard as I could, grasping onto the chains so that it would stay on target.
His eyes dimmed. He knew he wouldn’t be able to deflect it. Instead, the Lich raised a wall of ice to block the attack. The explosion shattered the crystalline barrier. It didn’t completely tear it down, instead leaving a large hole in the center, concentrated where the attack struck.
I saw the Lich through the hole in his barrier. His ice barrier sheeted over the ground, the garden, and himself. He bore a hateful gaze, one of scorn and fury. His own weapons made of ice formed over him. They came to existence, shards which gleamed in the night.
“I will have my Lilian back, even if your king tries to take her from me. I shall—”
He was cut off as fire and ice rained down on him. I glanced over at Edithe, staring at her wide-eyed.
“What are you doing? Why did you come back here?”
“I can’t let him kill you, Salvos.”
She dashed over to my side, grabbing for me as the Lich was caught in her magic. I groaned as she pulled me to my feet.
She blinked. I focused my fire over the ice, trying to burn myself free.
“It’s no use. His magic is too powerful.”
Edithe opened her mouth— and was blasted back by a plume of cold wind. I fell back to the ground and glanced back at the Lich.
“My Lilian, you’ve returned!”
She gritted her teeth, shaking off the frost that formed over her skin. The red-haired woman got to her feet, standing next to an ice sculpture, glaring at the undead [Hero] before her.
“I am not your Lilian, you insane bastard! [Fiery Riposte]!”
Flaming winds, just like the Lich’s icy zephyr, shot out towards him. It blasted him back, sweeping him off his feet, launching him deep into the thicket of dead trees.
Edithe panted as she stumbled over to me. She hauled me over her shoulders, gasping.
“Come on, we’ll destroy his phylactery together.”
My wings were gone. I tried to grow them back— use [Wings of the Netherworld] to force another set of wings out of me. But it didn’t want to. Was there a cooldown to the Skill’s use? That never happened before.
I was slowing Edithe down. She was exhausted. The Lich was behind us, somewhere in the garden, just waiting to strike. I couldn’t just lay and let her do all the work. I saw a flicker coming our way.
He was screeching, a shrill shriek that sounded completely inhuman. The Lich launched out, his clawing hands reaching for the red-haired woman.
“REEEEEEEEEETURN HER TO ME!”
His insanity was beyond my understanding. Did he see Edithe as Lilian, or did he realize she wasn’t Lilian? I would’ve thought it was the former, if not for the fact that he was trying to kill us both.
The Lich held a spear made of ice in his hand. It wasn’t like any other spear I had seen before. It was the size of a tree trunk, the kind that would tear down a city’s walls in an instant, magic resistance or not.
He hurled it our way. Edithe spun around, staring at our impending demise. Any barrier she conjured would be crushed in an instant. Same with me. There was only one thing I could do.
[Demon’s Mark]. I marked my own arm, before ripping it right off. I winced— I still had five more arms, but it hurt. Black blood dripped down as I tossed it at the incoming spear. The pillar of flames shot up, incinerating even the ice spear, my arm along with it.
I wonder if I can grow that back.
I didn’t want to find out. Right now, I had to get up. I had to force myself up or Edithe and I would die here. My flames burned over my legs, but the Lich’s ice refused to budge. So, I did something else. I took a deep breath, layering the flames over my leg. Then I tugged at its strings of mana, manipulating it just as I did the floating swords and floating spears.
I felt my lower body move. I pushed myself off Edithe’s shoulder, steadying myself on the ground. I stood taller than before, an extension added to my legs so that it would bend at the tip of my frozen feet into a crooked shape, like the hind legs of a goat or some other animal.
The flames from [Demon’s Mark] dissipated. The Lich came, a storm of ice creeping up behind him. Edithe placed a hand on my shoulder, nodding. I felt a surge of energy wash over me. I bared my teeth.
“[Lend Skill: Restore Skill]. [Beacon of Guardians].”
“Thanks! I’ll be right behind you.”
She dashed away as a glow overcame my body; I was too tall to stand straight on two legs. So, I bent over, clawing my hands on the ground as the Lich raised a hand. Ice spikes jutted out of the ground as I bounded around it.
Just as before, the Lich’s eyes flickered for a very brief moment. It was enough for me to close the distance and radiate a powerful black flame from all of my claws. I barreled straight through the Lich, using [Radiant Slash] to rip him apart. Then I spun around.
“[Restore Skil: Demon’s Mark]!”
I placed the tip of my finger on the Lich’s skull, barely grazing it as I ran for Edithe. The Lich’s body began to reform, but a blast of flames blew him apart once more.
Edithe was hurrying up a stairwhen when I found her. She threw the double doors into the keep open, charging in as I reached her side.
“Where is it?”
I asked as we turned corner after corner. She pointed.
I spotted the grand archway leading into the throne room just up ahead. I ran past Edithe, conjuring a Nebular Bow and Arrow as I reached its entrance. A black box sat on a chair, atop an elevated platform. I aimed and fired a shot—
And a hand jutted out of the ground, grabbing the arrow from mid-air. It was a blue hand, cold, almost like that of a [Wight]. But far, far larger.
Out of the black brick floor, a creature crawled out. It tore its way from the ground, a hulking undead that stood double my height as it currently was. Its head nearly reached the ceiling, a deformed face staring down at me. Its hand caught on fire briefly, the effects of the Nebular arrow afflicting it, but it was snuffed out soon enough.
[Draugr - Lvl. 121]
It roared. Edithe cursed as she stopped behind me.
“Fuck— that’s going to be a problem.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, a blizzard entered the hallway behind us. The walls froze over as the Lich made his approach, arms spread wide.
“My Lilian, oh my Lilian, why have you betrayed me?”
His voice came as a song. A lullaby, sung to children, to terrify them into an eternal slumber.
“First, my family. Then, my friends. Even in this new world, I was sent to my death. Lilian, my Lilian. The Kobolds did this to you, didn’t they? They turned you against me, just as they turned against me. I hAd NotHiNG You wERE aLL I HAD! WHY WON’T YOU COME BACK?”
I turned my Nebular Bow towards him, an arrow already strung and ready to loose. But the Lich halted. Footsteps echoed behind him. A voice spoke up, followed up by the sound of a sword being drawn.
“She’s gone, Zach.”
Daniel stood behind the Lich, his sword drawn, his body coated with a golden energy. He spoke casually, almost as if he was friends with the Lich. Taking a deep breath, he continued in English.
“Let it go, bro.”
“The fake [Hero] wishes to challenge me again?”
The Lich cackled, conjuring dozens of icicles around him. He aimed them at Daniel, each the size of a large spear, as his jaw dislocated in a grin.
“You will lose more than your arm, this time, boy.”
Daniel shook his head, stepping forth.
“I am not a boy. Why not see for yourself?”
I narrowed my eyes, and even the Lich paused.
[Hero - Lvl. 100]
He was Level 100 now? But wait—
“Go, Salvos, Edithe!”
He shouted, rushing the Lich. The spears of ice shot out at him as he parried them, closing the gap quickly. I spun around, focusing the Draugr, pelting it with even more Nebular Arrows. It brought a massive hand down, trying to crush me.
I rolled out of the way as Edithe dashed under its legs. She raised a hand, pointing at the phylactery. The Draugr raised a foot. Daniel reached the Lich. And I opened my mouth.
A cone of flames blasted out, burning the Draugr’s face. Daniel swung his sword, meeting the Lich’s own frozen blade. His sword shattered, and the Lich grabbed him by the neck.
“You… you have not advanced your Class, have you?”
“Of course not.”
He grinned as a layer of frost creeped over him.
“I didn’t have the time.”
The Draugr stumbled back, falling to the ground as Edithe leapt to the side. Lightning crackled on her fingers, a smirk spreading across her face.
A ball of lightning shot out, streaking at the unprotected box. There was no barrier around it. Nothing left to keep it safe. Edithe’s magic obliterated the box entirely, sending a plume of black smoke into the air. Ashes and dust.
“For every woman you’ve ever kidnapped… it’s over.”
Edithe spoke, her voice low.
It was destroyed in an instant. The life force of the Lich was gone. He could no longer regenerate, recover from any attack struck upon his feeble bones.
I nearly breathed out a sigh of relief too. We did it, I thought, relaxing slightly. And the Lich dropped Daniel, his flaming eyes dimming into mere sparks.
“No, no, no, NO, NO, NO!”
He rushed past me, swatting me aside with a blast of cold wind. I groaned and rubbed my head.
“Why isn’t he—”
Edithe sent another [Lightning Orb] at the Lich. It blasted apart his left shoulder, but he ignored it. She paused as he hurried up the steps, scrambling for the broken black box. His bones zipped back at him, reattaching themselves as threads of mana quickly weaved them back together.
I stared, blinking. Edithe was at a loss for words. She lowered her staff as the Lich sweeped up whatever remained of the box into his arms. He spoke slowly— and we understood what happened.
“You destroyed my Lilian. All that was left of her… gone… forever…”
We were wrong.