242. Nightsveil Part 2
I saw Nightsveil in the distance. It probably was a grand city once. It had three walls surrounding a palatial center. Steep, sloping walls that rose hundreds of feet into the air, each layer taller than the other. Maybe the streets had once been full of life with [Traders] and adventurers milling about as families laughed and children played.
Now, the streets were simply stained by the blood of the dead. Corpses carpeted the road as flames blanketed the buildings. The entirety of the city’s first wall had collapsed, leaving behind nothing but a ring of rubble that stretched on for miles. Smoke and ash pillared into the air, and the scent of death perfumed its way up to me.
I flapped my wings as I took in the city.
“Huh. That’s quite bad.”
Saffron said nothing as she stared down with a horrified look. It wasn’t like the city had been completely crushed. There were still groups— clusters of Humans fighting back or fleeing the city. But it had been almost completely overrun at this point with monsters and undead marching unperturbed.
An army had stood up to Belzu. A Human army. And now, it was left shattered. There were definitely still quite a few Humans still alive, but the large bulk of the fighting forces were dead. I could see their metal armor and their animals of war piled up at the fallen walls.
“So, how are we going to find your father?”
I looked over at Saffron. She gritted her teeth. Then she pulled out her communication artifact and spoke into it.
“Cinne, are you there?”
Her voice came out cracked, panicked. But she inhaled deeply, steeling herself. There was a pause, and she repeated herself.
“I’m here, Saffron.”
The voice on the other end was that of a man. He didn’t sound too old— kind of young, actually. But he was tired, panting heavily with each word. Saffron gripped the communication artifact tighter than before, as if that was her brother’s hand.
“Where are you? We’re here.”
“You’re here…? What are you— why are you even here?”
Cinne’s voice came out exasperated. There was an explosion on the other hand— electricity crackled in the background as people shouted.
“Just tell me where you are— and where Father is. Please. We’re here to save you.”
“I… we’re at the northern edge of the city. Father was injured in battle and we had to pull back. But that thing— that monster is after us. If they find us—”
There was a crash— a blast that sounded like it toppled a building. Cinne whimpered as his voice grew louder, like he was pressing the communication artifact against his lips.
“It killed Bellward the Blademaster. I saw it— he was Level 156, and he was slain, just like that… save us…”
With that, the voice cut out. Saffron gritted her teeth, turning to me.
“Salvos, did you hear—”
“I saw that!”
I looked over to the north and saw a tower collapse. A tall bell tower that had been at least three hundred feet tall. It fell over like a giant hand had just swatted it to the ground. Around it, a horde of undead closed in— [Crypt Horrors] and [Crypt Lords].
“Hold on tight, Saffron, and ready your defensive spells, cause I’m flying low!”
I swooped down with a single flap of my wings. [Haste] took over me and my companion— my flaming armor wreathed over her, protecting her as well. I soared between buildings, drawing the attention of everyone who could see me.
Down below, we flew. Over corpses piled over the streets. Monsters ambled over them, turning their gazes towards me. They chased after, roaring and screeching and hurling their magic my way.
I zipped around the attacks. Their magic collapsed buildings that were barely even standing. Gatho Mammoths gave chase as giant beetle-like monsters flew up and after me. Hordes and hordes of monsters gathered together, led by Mindreapers from above. They all tried to give chase, and I rolled my eyes.
“Seriously? Come on—”
I exhaled, unleashing a powerful wave of blue flames. It washed over the streets and cleaned it of the infestation of pests below. Not all of them were instantly vaporized, but it was enough to allay their approach.
Most of them were less than half my level. A few were close to Platinum. And the ones that exceeded Platinum ranked— well, I was smart enough to target and kill them before they could do anything. That included the Mindreapers. The terrible monsters that used mind magic— controlled by Belzu to control his horde.
Or at least, maintain it.
I created a Nebular Bow and Arrow, using [Faux Limbs] to aim it with two flaming hands. With that, I shot down the Mindreapers that drew close. Before they could use their magic to harm myself or Saffron from a distance.
I smirked as I turned an intersection, only for a giant bird-like creature to come tearing its way at me. I blinked, facing it as it was about to clash with me.
[Killbeak - Lvl. 96]
And I dropped out of the way in time. The monster crashed into a building with its reverberating squawk. Debris shot out everywhere as the building fell, and the [Killbeak] launched back out. But just as it rose from the dust, I pulled back a Refined Nebular Arrow.
“Nice try, but you’re not as fast as me.”
Its eyes somehow seemed to widen, even through the haze that clouded its mind. I loosed the bowstring, turning around to fly off as a powerful explosion of blue flames shook the city’s streets behind me.
Defeated [Mature Killbeak - Lvl. 96]
Less experience is awarded for defeating an enemy at least 10 levels below you!
I cast my gaze around at the destruction around me. My eyes focused and snapped to my goal.
“Come on, Saffron, they’re just up ahead.”
My companion tightly gripped me by the forearm, even as she held onto my back. We shot forward, crossing over entire sections of the city in mere moments as she whispered softly.
But right before I could land, I spotted a light in the distance. A glowing, shearing attack that tore buildings asunder. A blade of pure energy that seemed to rise dozens of feet into the air. Saffron stared at it, gaping.
I cocked my head. She simply pursed her lips.
“The Sword of Alexander. That’s where Belzu is at.”
I shook my head.
“I guess we’re staying away from that, then.”
It was over.
The company war was finally over. Edithe Dawnrise thought that this would’ve been such a momentous occasion— that a celebratory party would’ve been thrown with wine bottles being popped as dancers took the floor of an inn. But the ambience here was not that of a party, but that of a funeral.
And it was because of what happened.
The Valiant Dreamers had attacked the headquarters of the Iron Champions Company. What was supposed to be a climactic finale to this whole saga turned out to be nothing more than a massacre. Not just against the Valiant Dreamers, but against the Iron Champions as well.
Belzu, the Primeval Demon himself, showed up at the stage before all the actors were in place, and he sabotaged the script, killing every Iron Champion there. And in an ambush, he attacked the Valiant Dreamers, demanding they give him one thing: the Sword of Alexander.
Edithe tried to fight, she really did. But even though she’d just hit Level 100— even though she had a second Class— it was not enough. Nothing she did could hurt Belzu beyond mere scratches. All she did was delay him. She would’ve died, sacrificing herself for just five minutes of running. That was if Baris had not stepped in.
The man— or perhaps, the Vampire— drew the Sword of Alexander and challenged Belzu to battle. Unfortunately, Baris lost. And now, the Primeval Demon had the Mythical artifact that could slay even the Immortal King Alexander himself.
So, yes. The Valiant Dreamers were shattered. They lost so many people in this war, and they lost so many more to the pointless slaughter at the end, including their former leader. And more than that, they knew that it was their inadequacy that allowed what was happening now to continue—
Belzu had sieged Nightsveil. The Primeval Demon took the Capital city of Nixa in one night. It had been heavily reinforced— allies from all around the world came to support them. Two Elites even showed up, after another Elite, Shozomil Windbane, had perished at the hands of Belzu just a week earlier.
Despite all this, the city fell. Despite the powerful artifacts and enchantments that protected its walls, it was completely razed down. Or at least, it was in the process of being razed down.
One of the Elites, too, had died. Bellward the Blademaster. The other, upon seeing his companion fall in battle, fled instantly. And that was how morale crumbled. That was the start of how the battle was lost.
All these lives lost… and Edithe could’ve prevented it. She gritted her teeth as she stared at the wooden floor. The Valiant Dreamers were all gathered at an inn, and no one spoke a word. Even Celine, the usual carefree friend of Edithe, could only sigh deeply as she hugged Nora.
They were all morose— they mourned their dead friends, they mourned their former leader, and they mourned all the lives that were being lost right now. But what was there to do? They saw Belzu’s power. Alone, he defeated them all.
He was a monster. A flying calamity. A terrible creature. He… it… that thing had to be stopped somehow. But no one— nothing could stop Belzu. Maybe… maybe a—
“A [Hero] can stop it.”
A voice spoke up. Edithe blinked, looking up as a man stood to his feet. Noah, leader of the Northbury Troops, straightened. He swept his gaze around the room, gesticulating.
“You all saw it. It was strong, sure. But it’s nowhere near as strong as a [Hero], right? It’s still weak compared to Melissa or Alexander or even Zacharius!”
A susurration ran through the room. Heads raised from facing the floorboards as an almost-excited chatter broke out. But then a riposte came. Gabriel the [Alchemist] crossed his arms.
“And where exactly is this [Hero] going to come from?”
The noise almost instantly stopped. The hope that was beginning to spark back into existence was smothered before it could become a fire. Edithe tightly gripped the hems of her robes as she looked over at Gabriel.
Murmurs came, agreeing with him.
“He’s right. There hasn’t been a [Hero] in a millennium.”
“How do we even know if this [Hero] can defeat Belzu? What if we’re all dead before they show up?”
“And what if they turn on us just like Zacharius? What if they join this Demon instead of helping us defeat it?”
Noah, however, was insistent.
“This is a time of crisis. That damn Demon is destroying an entire country before us. It stole a damn Mythical Grade artifact from us. It may seem hopeless, but it is times like this that a [Hero] is summoned. And that [Hero]— whoever he or she is— will squash that Demon like a bug. We can’t give up hope. We have to believe.”
Edithe found herself squeezing her robes even harder than before. There was something she had to say— something she knew that they didn’t. However, before she could accidentally open her mouth, the front door swung open.
Hadrian, the leader of the Valiant Dreamers Company, and Baris’ son, strolled into the room.
He stopped right in the middle of the room, standing tall. Edithe blinked as Hadrian spoke with his chest.
“The hour is dire, and many lives have been lost. What should’ve been a victory has been robbed from us. But that doesn’t change who we are. We cannot give up.”
Was this really Hadrian? Edithe had expected him to be broken after the death of his father. But right now, he showed none of that. He wore the face of a leader who was in control— something uncharacteristic of him, since he was a bit of a flirt and a playboy. And yet, it was the same man that spoke now.
“We can’t give up our hope, our dream, just because Father—”
He cut himself off, biting his lower lip. There was a brief moment where Edithe saw through his demeanour. A facade put up just for this moment. But with a deep breath, he continued and the mask was back on.
“Just because Baris is dead, do we give up? No. That would betray everything he taught us. We are the dreamers, are we not? You— all of you are dreamers. We are the Valiant Dreamers Company. We shall be strong when others are weak. We shall protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
Silence. The room was completely quiet after that small speech. Torches burned and flickered on the walls as a cool wind brushed over them. Edithe eyed Hadrian as the leader of the Valiant Dreamers took in his company. Then a sharp voice cut through him,
“If that’s the case, then why did Baris never tell us about the Sword of Alexander?”
A man stood up. Edithe recognized him as Jake. She didn’t know him all that well, but she knew that he only recently hit Level 40. He met Hadrian’s gaze, frowning.
“Isn’t this company supposed to be about protecting the weak? Why didn’t Baris use that weapon to protect us? We lost so many lives— if we’d used it since the start of this whole company war, we could’ve dealt with the Iron Champions a long time ago.”
Hadrian started, but the man shook his head and stomped a foot on the ground.
“Did you know about it? Did anyone else know about it? Was he keeping this secret from all of us?”
Jake scanned the room, furrowing his brows. Celine looked away, and Ismail closed his eyes. Edithe couldn’t help but shfit uncomfortably as Jake turned to her. Then finally, he looked back at Hadrian.
“Or did Baris only keep it secret from us lower-leveled folk? You know, the weak.”
“That’s not how it is. The others only learned about it recently—”
“So, they knew about it, didn’t they? And did none of you think of telling us about it? Or telling Baris to use the weapon to end the company war?”
Hadrian lowered his head.
“No— Father couldn’t use it, even if he wanted to. That would defeat the whole purpose of safeguarding it. If others knew about it, then it’d be in danger. It had to be kept a secret. It had to be protected…”
“And who were the ones protecting it? Us? Or him?”
He opened his mouth, but Jake crossed his arms. The leader of the Valiant Dreamers looked around, blinking. His company was split— voices of disagreement rose throughout the room as he tried to regain control. But it was too late.
Others were joining Jake. And the man’s voice was all that they heard. Edithe’s frowned as he continued.
“We were just bait, weren’t we? You were feeding us lies, using us to hide your precious weapon. That’s—”
“That’s enough, Jake.”
Finally, Edithe had enough. She got to her feet, speaking in a soft yet strong voice that overpowered his words. He blinked, looking over at her.
“You’re not one to talk—”
“I said, that’s enough.”
She cut him off, stepping forward.
“You’re making a lot of false assumptions about what happened. I suggested what you are suggesting right now, but things were far more complex than that. And this is hardly the time for this discussion. We’re all grieving right now.”
Jake started, but he hesitated when Edithe glared at him. After some internal debate, he shook his head and left the room.
“Whatever. I’m leaving.”
A few others followed Jake, leaving the inn. No one stopped them. No one was going to force them to stay. But Edithe couldn’t lie and say she didn’t feel hurt watching her allies walk away. Even Gabriel left. He looked over at her, shaking his head. And that left the room half as empty as it was before.
This was it. Cinne knew he was going to die when he heard the blasts in the distance. The undead drew closer, and there was nothing he could do to stop them.
He was Level 102. A recently ordained ‘Diamond Rank’. He reached this huge milestone five years younger than Father did. That was why he joined this battle. And yet, now, Father lay next to him. Crocus Merryster, a Level 131 [Warrior], had been terribly injured by the Primeval Demon.
A curse afflicted him— one caused by the Primeval Demon itself. And because of that, Crocus couldn’t move, and Cinne was left in charge of their family’s men. But Cinne wasn’t the bravest there was. He wasn’t stupidly courageous like his younger brother. He saw the tide was turning and ordered his men to flee.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t get far. The monsters had surrounded the city, cutting off any escape. And now, here he was, awaiting his demise in a temple. [Priests] and [Healing Mages] lay dead around hin. By the time he retreated here, they were all dead. Even the injured. This was not a place of safety. It was a place of death. A coffin which he hid in to buy some time.
Cinne’s eyes flickered out the broken stained glass window. He saw the undead drawing closer. He saw the flashes of light further away, where the Primeval Demon rampaged. And he sighed a resigned breath.
“That idiot… why is she here?”
Yet, his sister came for him. Saffron Merryster, the supposed smart one of the family. She went straight to a warzone to save him.
“At least we’ll die together.”
He chuckled mirthlessly to himself. And a voice drew his attention from behind. One of his bodyguards— a Platinum Rank— saluted.
“Master Cinne. I must apologize, but we’ve lost the first floor.”
“That means Boone is dead, isn’t he?”
“I am sorry.”
“There’s no reason to apologize, Harold. You’ve been loyal to me until the end. Thank you.”
He hefted his spear over his shoulder, sealing his fate. Harold blinked.
“Where are you going, master?”
“To buy some time. Look after Father, will you?”
He gestured at the altar where Crocus was laid. Harold hesitated. Then he bowed deeply at his master.
“It was a pleasure, master Cinne.”
With that, Cinne accepted his fate. He slowly walked down the hallway, twirling his spear. This was it. Soon, an unending horde would come for his life. All he could do now was buy time— hold them off for as long as possible. Perhaps Father could somehow recover in that time period and escape. Maybe he’d get to his sister’s face one last time before he drew his final breath.
“Even if I was a coward, at least I tried to be brave.”
Footsteps clambered down the corridor. The undead snarled as they made their way up the stairs to him. He saw their shadows. Wicked creatures, coming for his life. He raised his spear, saluting to himself.
“Come at me you bastards!”
They poured out of the stairway, scrambling for him. He steeled himself, bring a foot back as he held out his spear. He breathed in, ready to unleash all the Skills he had to his name. And the undead—
Ran past him.
They continued down the hallway, falling over each other, almost as if they were running from something. He blinked, turning around.
And there was a flash. A blue light shone as burning waves washed around him. They didn’t touch him or harm him, yet he could feel the scorching heat from where he stood. It burned the undead, incinerating them all before they could get any further. In an instant, they were all dead.
And he heard a soft thud as something landed behind him. With all the courage he had left in his body, Cinne creaked his neck, facing it.
Before him, he saw a silver-haired woman. She wore an unusual blue shirt…? Jacket? And she had wings made of ember, the same color as the night sky behind her.
“Who are you?”
He stared. And the woman smiled.
“Hi! I’m Salvos!”