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215. Interlude - Edithe's Evolution Part 1

“Watch out!”

A wall of molten rock crashed from the sky, tearing the streets and shooting rubble high into the sky. Specks of dirt and dust clouded the air. It was difficult to breathe, to see, and to hear. The ground was burned a scorched black, with a column of ash trailing up to the air, permeating to the rest of the battlefield.

Collins had seen the attack coming. He warned the rest of his team, and they managed to get out of the blast zone in time. It was a powerful spell; the [Mage] that cast it was nearly 30 levels above him.

“We need to get back!”

He yelled, raising his great shield. Its size dwarfed even him, but his [Strength] as a Level 50 let him raise it with ease. The enemy [Mage], however, didn’t let up. The sky darkened as thunder roared in the distance— a fury that would soon befall Collins and his team.

Brace for it, he readied himself. He activated a Skill; it was one of the only ones he could use in this situation. It might not be enough to save his life, but as long as his team was safe, it didn’t matter to him. Snapping his eyes shut, Collins waited for the inevitable storm of lightning to befall him.

And it came. Just not where he thought it’d come from.

A sphere of pure lightning shot up, striking the enemy [Mage] out of the air. The shock of the electricity crackled through the air, a loud ringing in Collins’s ears. He staggered away as the flash of light engulfed the sky, before ice and fire coalesced around the Level 80 [Mage].

It was a powerful magic, one that came from an even higher-leveled spellcaster. Someone even above Platinum in rank. But who was it? There were only three Diamond Ranks in the field. The first was Hadrian, leader of the Valiant Dreamers himself— he was a [Warrior], so it couldn’t be him. The second was Ismail Zuland, and neither he nor his Pegasus was capable of magic at this level. Then that had to mean it was—

“Edithe Dawnrise.”

Collins spun around, uttering the name.

A red-haired woman stood behind him, her staff raised, and her fiery eyes boring into the enemy [Mage].It was the look which everyone in the Valiant Dreamers Company wore when they readied themselves for battle, but most lost once the fighting actually started. However, even as the redhead stepped past Collins, the look never vanished from her face. It spoke of one thing and one thing only.

Justice for the Valiant Dreamers: bring down the Iron Champions Company!

 


 

Edithe’s mind was in a haze as she engaged in battle, not caring about it in the slightest.

She barely paid attention to the enemy [Mage] as he launched a flurry of spells her way. Her eyes were glossed over the battlefield, not focused on the mayhem that was going on around her. She blocked the attacking spell, countering with her own volley of flames.

A sound resounded in her head. One that she quickly ignored.

 

Defeated [Magus—

Less experience is awarded—

 

The body dropped from the sky, lifeless, flopping over like a fish out of water. Edithe watched it for a few seconds as she tried to gather herself to continue. She felt tired. It was tiring.

How many battles had she fought? How many battles had the Valiant Dreamers fought since arriving in Nixa? So many lives were wasted, and yet, no one knew the real reason why.

It was all that she could think about. The Iron Champions— yes, they were evil. But if only her friends understood why they were fighting. She scanned the battlefield. It was the Millcliff Iron Mines. A former Dungeon located at the bottom of a cliff, converted now into a small town for the company. Corpses were strewn all over the brick houses and factory buildings. Innocent civilians weren’t involved in this bloodbath, but Edithe still felt guilty about the battle.

The Valiant Dreamers had fought many battles since the revelation about the company’s true purpose was made to her. She hadn’t been able to do much beyond just fighting, taking the territories of the Iron Champions Company in bloody battles. To think she believed she could convince Hadrian to understand her perspective…

Edithe barely spoke to him since. It was just non-stop fighting and strategizing. The Valiant Dreamers were winning as many battles as they lost— stuck in a tug-of-war that involved the loss of too many lives. It had to end soon. The outcome of this battle in the Millcliff Iron Mines could possibly change the tide of the war entirely. Now was not the time to hesitate: she’d have to deal with Hadrian after this was over.

She glanced over at Collins. He was a young-looking man, roughly her age in appearance, if she were to guess. He and his team were caked in blood and dirt from fighting in the side lines, flanking the main mining town from the top of the cliff as chaos raged on below. He lowered his great shield, sighing in relief.

“Thank you so much—”

Edithe pushed him aside.

“Get down!”

She raised her staff, calling forth the [Shield of the Misty Lord]. It was her strongest defensive barrier. And she needed it.

Orbur Vale himself struck down at Edithe. One of the founders of the Iron Champions Company himself unleashed his Skills upon her— a Diamond Rank adventurer, glittering with enchanted armor and a giant broadsword.

[Warrior - Lvl. 119]

Edithe identified him and cursed. A lot.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. This is...

There was no way she’d be able to best him in battle. She was not a Demon like Salvos, nor was she a [Hero] like Daniel. And neither of them were here right now.

This was Orbur Vale. A champion of the Iron Champions Company. Someone 20 levels above her. He had a Level 100 advancement and a second Class; she had neither. She was so, so very—

“...fucked.”

The image of a glowing blade sheared through the ground, nearly slicing off the edge of the cliff Edithe was standing on. The attack halted when it crashed into the [Shield of the Mysty Lord]. Somehow, Edithe’s greatest defensive barrier held up.

“You need to go, now!”

She turned to Collins and his team. The Gold Ranks were awe-struck, staring at her as she held off the other Diamond Rank. What were they even doing?!

Gritting her teeth, Edithe readied herself for when her barrier would fall. The Gold Ranks hesitated— Collins opened his mouth. But she snapped.

“I said: leave!”

And they did. They wouldn’t have been of any help to her. Their levels were far too low to make a difference. Edithe wasn’t even sure if she’d be able to defeat Orbur anyway. She just had to hold him off until the Gold Ranks were gone. Then she’d have to flee, herself.

The Gold Ranks ran off as her [Shield of the Misty Lord] faltered. Orbur Vale paid them no mind, his eyes fixed only on the red-haired woman standing before him. With a smirk, he spoke casually.

“Edithe Dawnrise. I’ve been hearing all about you these days. The Diamond Rank adventurer who slayed the Lich of the Plaguelands. The fiery redhead who put a stop to a small but high-leveled Kobold incursion into the Vaun Qieur Empie. From these stories told about you— I expected you to be some kind of Demon disguising herself as a Human.”

Edithe winced. That’s not me, but someone else… Shaking her head, she took a step out of her fractured, collapsing ice barrier. Her staff was raised, ready for anything Orbur could throw at her. He just shook his head.

“But even after hearing all those rumors, I see that you’re not even at Level 100.”

“Don’t underestimate your opponents, Orbur Vale. Just because I’m Level 98 doesn’t mean I haven’t advanced in my Class. Don’t you know? Some special individuals can reach their advancements earlier than others. And you haven’t seen my second Class either.”

It was an obvious bluff. But one that dragged on this moment even longer. The red-haired woman shifted, backing up slowly.

“Second Class?”

Orbur Vale raised a brow, clearly amused.

“I’ve heard that you used to fight with summons, and yet, since your return from the Plaguelands, you’ve only fought alone. Is, perhaps, [Summoner] your second Class?”

Edithe felt a spell forming on the tip of her staff. It was the Primordial Staff given to her by Salvos. It was a truly heartwarming gift— one that Edithe cherished. But beyond just being a token of gratitude, it also enhanced a specific type of magic. Fire magic.

And that was exactly what Edithe prepared.

The [Warrior] standing across from her never would expect it. He was not a [Mage] who could see the manipulation of mana and casting of spells. She hoped to catch him off guard. Orbur Vale tapped his chin, grinning.

“Ah wait, that can’t be right. After all, you were barred from summoning when you broke your contract, no?”

Edithe paused. She stared at him for a moment— at the wicked smile of the black-haired man dressed in flashy armor.

“Honestly, that is cruel. They trusted you, and you betrayed their trust. They truly must hate you.”

There were a thousand different things she wanted to say at that moment. Then she remembered Mistshard and the brief conversation they had. It wasn’t much. It ended quickly. And Mistshard wasn’t truly talking to Edithe at that moment. But the words resounded in her head.

There is no animosity here.

And Orbur’s words washed over Edithe like a light drizzle on a warm fall day. It wasn’t particularly as cool or refreshing as if it were summer, but it eased the haze that was clouding over her mind, resolving her in the face of his chilling intensity.

“Orbur Vale.”

He tilted his head to the side, curious. She remembered why she fought. She remembered her friends and those she cared about. She spat.

“Fuck you.”

[Arrow of the Flame Elemental].

The spell shot out, a blinding fury that surprised even the [Warrior]. She broke off into a sprint, running from the man before the brilliant explosion took off the cliff face. He should’ve fallen right off into the pits below, however he was a high-leveled individual.

Orbur exploded into the air, his armor scorched and blackened, his hair a disheveled mess, but his face was left untouched, scarred only with a rage directed towards Edithe.

“Come here you coward!”

His blade sliced apart the earth, even from dozens of feet in the air. He swung his sword, and the ground broke apart like a terrible tremor had taken the area. Edithe threw herself to the side, avoiding the attack, yet a deep gash still formed on her arm. She swallowed in pain.

“Shit— [Fiery Riposte]!”

A blade of flames slashed up at Orbur. And this attack made him pause. He braced himself for it, bringing his blade up to parry it from the air as Edithe picked herself up and ran on. I can’t take him on. A memory flashed. The battle with the Lich.

All Edithe could do back then was escape, even for only a minute. Orbur was lower-leveled than the Lich, and her two strongest spells did more than enough to allay him for longer than the Lich. But it wasn’t enough. She needed help, and help wouldn’t just find her.

So, she’d call it to her.

Raising her staff, Edithe shouted.

“[Beacon of Guardians].”

Orbur landed on his feet as a glow covered Edithe, rising up above the battlefield. His eyes narrowed, and he was fast to react. He knew something was off, but not exactly what.

He charged at her, shouting curses at her, but she just continued as she conjured a [Lightning Orb]. Edithe tossed one back at him, and he easily parried it with a single strike. She clicked her tongue.

She was going to get caught. Spinning on her heels, she faced Orbur which surprised him. He was surprised for just a few moments, before Edithe unleashed a [Storm of Ice and Fire] at him. His head raised slightly, as the cold winds and flames bounced off his aura of protection.

“Pathetic.”

He cut his blade through the air, and somehow dispelled the magic. Edithe blinked.

“How…?”

She stared at him, and he smirked viciously.

“You’ll never know.”

Orbur lanced forward, suddenly moving twice as fast as before. A Skill? The red-haired woman’s eyes widened—

And from the sky, a majestic mare swooped down at Orbur. It was a white horse with the wings of a swan spreading out of its back. A man rode on the back of the Pegasus, wielding a large battle-axe that glinted with the swing he took. He nearly struck Orbur Vale on the back, but the [Warrior] noticed the attack coming in time to dodge.

Ismail Zuland— one of the Diamond Ranks of the Valiant Dreamers— heeded Edithe’s call and came to save her. He landed right next to her, his axe held high as he nodded.

“Need a hand?”

“More like multiple hands, but yes, I needed that.”

“Glad to be of service.”

He grinned as his Pegasus, Dorothy, flapped her wings and let out a whinny in agreement. Orbur Vale glanced between the pair. He harrumphed.

“So, two of the Valiant Dreamers’ Diamond Ranks choose to face me in battle. A Level 98 [Mage] and a Level 118 [Beastmaster].”

“How astute. Next you’re going to point out that I’m a man with a beautiful mare, and she’s a woman with dazzling red hair, are you?”

Ismail chuckled as Edithe rolled her eyes. Orbur just gave them both flat stares.

“I know when I’m outmatched. And the fact that you could come here, Ismail Zuland, is enough of a message.”

He glanced behind, towards the mining town down deep below the crevice. He sighed.

“This battle is lost.”

With that said, Orbur turned around and walked off. Edithe watched as he simply headed out of the battlefield, trying to work her jaw. She raised her hand.

“Hey, wait—”

“Don’t chase after him. He’ll try to split us up and take us out one by one. Come on, let’s just finish this.”

Ismaild stopped her. He gestured down at the Millcliff Iron Mines. The last of the Iron Champions Company were being overwhelmed. Many of them had already surrendered, throwing down their arms. Only a select few fought to the death, unrelenting for whatever twisted reason.

Hadrian led a charge, rallying the Valiant Dreamers Company to finish off the last of the enemy forces. Edithe turned back in time to see Orbur leap over over the crevice in a single jump, continuing off in a more hurried pace. He’d been trying to bait them, but now he was truly fleeing.

“Right. Let’s finish this battle.”

With a deep breath, Edithe followed Ismail down the deep pit, readying her spells. Even as she walked into battle, her eyes were focused on one man and one man only: Hadrian, her leader.

Then it’s time to finally speak with him.

 

Class [Risen Elemental Spellcaster] Level Up!

[Risen Elemental Spellcaster - Lvl. 98] -> [Risen Elemental Spellcaster - Lvl. 99]!

Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!

 

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