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Three days passed without event, besides a Monster Boar showing up, but that had been dealt with before the trio could even respond. Sok Village would be leaving the next morning, today was the group’s last day on guard duty. It was a good break for Nissa and Bedora, who got to relax while they put Kahari through hours of drills. It was just after lunch, so they’d stopped for the day, but Kahari could feel his body slowly acclimating to the life he’d been thrust into. His hands were comfortable with his weapons, even if he still felt sick anytime he remembered the man he’d killed. No...not a man, a monster in the shape of a man. Still, he’d been a thinking, intelligent being. Kahari hated the thought of having to kill another like that, but if he was going to get his sisters back, he’d need to get over it.

In those three days, as promised, he’d been taught some additional basic spells. Another Air spell, Air Piercer, which was a bit more advanced than Wind Blade, though still a low tier spell. Besides that, he also learned a little bit of Holy magic. Flare, which lit up a large area with Holy light, weakening those with evil hearts or vulnerability to Holy magic. This was technically the most advanced spell Kahari now knew, but it was low use for anything besides signalling for help or some other such thing. Finally he now knew Mend Wound, though it was a cheaper variant than what Nissa had used at the Orb Weaver nest, with no poison curing effect. Basic spells that were useful regardless of class. Apparently Bedora knew a Water version of Mend Wound. Besides a bolt spell, basically every adventurer had a light spell, and a basic healing spell like this one.

Kahari sat down on a little stump he’d claimed for himself, a gap in the canopy overhead let it get sunlight even now. It was warmer than the shadowy forest around him, which with the crisp autumn air was a welcome change. He closed his eyes and basked in the sun for a few minutes, before returning to reality. He was alone at the moment, giving him time to think in a way he rarely got on the road. He sat quietly for about fifteen minutes before standing, and stretching. His break was over, he was going to continue practicing his form even if Bedora and Nissa were done for the day. He had a lot of ground to cover if he was ever going ready for the fight in Fota.

The rest of the day passed quietly, the only real notable stir was when a little Foxkin girl had gotten stuck in a tree, but Nissa had gotten her down with a little Nature magic. Much to her excitement, the children loved the show, and she’d spent part of the day showing off, but after a while had to say no. She needed to conserve enough mana for a fight if something happened, she was here as a guard after all. The three of them were sitting around their fire as the last light of day faded into night. They were all considerably more relaxed then they had been just a few days ago. Kahari was sleeping better, though his mind still lingered on the people the Night Talons had taken. Bedora never seemed overly stressed, even if she was always serious, but her posture was more relaxed than before. Nissa was smiling and laughing more often; the day with the kids had been good for her.

Kahari stood up and stretched, before disappearing into his tent. He turned the lamp above him off before stretching out on the mattress. Bedora had him sleeping in his armor, as uncomfortable as it was, so that he could get used to it while traveling. If they got into a fight during the night, he wouldn’t have the time to put the armor on anyway. Apparently another Association benefit was a passive ability that eliminated complications from sleeping in armor. Kahari had asked why the Association had so many odd little things, but Nissa said it’d been like that for a thousand years. Closing his eyes, Kahari let sleep overtake him while Bedora and Nissa continued to laugh, and talk outside.

A loud crack echoed through the trees, Kahari bolted upright. A cold sweat clung to him; heart beating like a drum as a chill ran down his spine. He listened carefully for a moment, all was quiet for a second before a piercing scream reached his tent. He jumped from the bed, spear in hand as he came out of the tent. Nissa and Bedora emerged from their own tents, weapons in hand. An orange glow filled the night sky, sounds of metal on metal filled the air. The three of them wasted no time on words, charging towards the main body of the camp. Nissa quickly pulled ahead of Bedora, who was gaining distance on Kahari. As they got closer to the center, Kahari bellowed in rage as the purple robes that dwelled in his nightmares filled his sight. There weren’t near as many of them as at Seras, it looked like the whole village had gathered together to hide behind their guards. Still, there were two dozen robes that Kahari could see.

Daggers flashed as Nissa drove them into the back of one of the figures, the elven man dropping dead to the ground as he coughed up blood. Another man dropped as one of Bedoras’s javelins punched through his skull, brain matter splattering as his head popped like a grape. Kahrari raised a hand as he ran, aiming for an archer that was taking aim at Jun, who was focused on holding a magical shield around the civilians. The arrow glowed an angry crimson, Kahari couldn’t tell if it was magic, a skill, or an enchanted arrow. He didn’t care. He shouted the spell, rage fueling him.

“POWER OF AIR, AIR PIERCER!”

A lance of air shot through the air, catching the archer in the chest before he could let the arrow loose. He went flying as the lance went clean through him, thudding lifeless into a tree. The arrow was still glowing, so an enchantment. Kahari moved to collect it, to prevent someone else from trying to kill Jun. He didn’t make it, as someone dropped on top of him, driving him into the ground. He rolled, returning to his feet now facing his attacker. He gripped his spear more tightly as his emerald eyes met amber. The woman cackled, sadistic glee spilling from her.

“Well well well, lookie what we have here. A lost puppy? So far from home boy, I think it’s time you joined your father.”

The woman’s hood didn’t hide her face like last time, pale skin, paler even than Kahari covered it. Her teeth were pointed, bits of flesh clinging to them; she’d fed recently. What stood before Kahari was no human, but a Ghast. He’d heard stories of them before, born of cursed magics, or when a soul refused to leave a body because of a deep hunger. Not all Ghasts were evil, but they all hungered for flesh to fill an emptiness inside them. This one though, the one that blocked his path was twisted enough Kahari could practically feel the oppressive evil rolling off her. She relished in her unlife, in the pain she left in her wake.

She charged, daggers flashing in the pale moonlight. Her cackles did nothing to unnerve Kahari, they couldn’t pierce the determination and rage that burned in his soul. She seemed slower to him this time, though she was still very fast. Her daggers moved in unpredictable patterns, cutting and thrusting at him. He parried some attacks, his armor taking others, but he was still accumulating small cuts, she was too fast for him to parry everything. He shifted his feet, putting more energy into dodging, searching for an opening to counterattack. She had the momentum in the fight, and if he didn’t take it, he would never win. She laughed as he started to avoid the majority of her attacks.

“What’s this? The puppy has grown up! Good, they always taste better when they can fight back.”

There! Her attacks slowed as she spoke, he saw an opening. Spinning out of the way of her attack, he twirled the spear and brought the haft up into the woman’s jaw. A flash of blue light came off the spear as he did so, he’d activated a technique. The woman staggered as her body locked up. Kahari only had a moment, enough time for one attack. Finishing the spin of the spear, he followed the Haft Bash with a Piercing Thrust, driving his spear into the woman’s torso where her collarbone and shoulder connected. The blood that sprayed from the wound was thick, already partially coagulated. He’d missed the joint he had been aiming for, but she was wounded, her arm didn’t move the same way it did before.

“You’ll pay for that!”

She snarled, Kahari smiled. He responded for the first time in the fight, baiting the woman.

“Make me.”

She came at him, a smile no longer clinging to her face. He had to focus on dodging again, she was still a higher level than him. He’d only scored hits because she’d let her guard down to revel in her own sadistic pleasure. He could hear the battle still surrounding him, but he was going to need help if he was going to kill this woman. He chanted as he dodged, finding a slim opening to raise his hand in order to complete the spell.

“Power of Heaven, Flare!”

An orb of bright, Holy light rocketed into the air above him. Once it was a hundred feet (30m) up, it hovered there, bathing the whole camp in it’s light. The woman recoiled as the light touched her; clearly evil enough to suffer under the light. Her attacks were slower now, but she was still pressing the attack hard enough that Kahari could only focus on defense. This didn’t last long as a spear made of roots shot out of the ground beneath her. She leaped backwards, the attack only grazing her, but Kahari knew exactly who that was.

“Nissa! She was at Seras!”

“Careful, she’s an Assassin, she’s been toying with you.”

“I know, she hasn’t used any techniques.”

Nissa circled to be on the woman’s left while Kahari held his ground in front of her. Her eyes darted between them, as if trying to decide if the fight was worth it. She seemed to make her decision as she raised her hand, eerie black runes surrounding it as she chanted.

“Shadow Barrier!”

A moment before a Firebolt slammed into her, a shadowy shield that sprung to life in front of her. It held together as Bedora rushed her from the right. Nissa started chanting, and Kahari joined the charge. The woman charged at Kahari, knowing the weak link in the party. Her daggers were a blur now, she was using some technique given the blue glow around her weapons. Kahari moved to dodge, but found he stood no chance as six different cuts appeared on him in an instant. He grunted against the pain, but something even more concerning was that his spear’s haft broke into three pieces; it had been cut clean through. The woman was forced to leap away from him as a warhammer swung through the air where her head had been. Kahari drew his sword, dropping the pieces of his ruined weapon he still held to the ground.

Bedora kept up the assault, driving the woman backwards into the path of a line of thorns coming from Nissa. The thorns drove home into the woman’s left side, a few even driving deep into the wound Kahari had given the woman. The woman’s Shadow Barrier dented as Bedora’s hammer slammed into it. Bedora kept up the pressure, the woman trying to dodge as many as she could, but some blows glanced off the barrier instead, straining it. Kahari circled to the side, Bedora was driving the woman to a tree with her relentless attacks, and with Nissa to her left, she’d have to come towards him to get away. She did just that, diving away from Bedora as she activated some technique. Her hammer slammed into the maple tree, trunk cracking under the strain; the tree fell away from the fight. If that attack had landed, the Shadow Barrier would have shattered.

Kahari was on the woman by the time she got to her feet, cutting, thrusting, and feinting to try and keep her from regaining the offensive. She was stronger than him, and was able to avoid his hits, even paying him back with a few of her own. She didn’t control the flow of the fight though, that belonged to the trio. Another Root Spear burst from the ground, spearing her through the hand. Kahari took the opening, and brought his sword down on her wrist, cutting the hand off before she could free it. She screamed in pain, stumbling backward. Her hand still struggled on the spear, before tearing itself free and scrambling through the grass to get back to it’s owner. It didn’t make it, a hammer coming down on top of it as Bedora dropped from above, leaping back into the fray.

Cursing, the woman reached to her brace, and slammed a vial to the ground, filling the air with putrid smoke. A light flashed in the smoke, and there was a scream of pain to the left. The woman was on Nissa, teeth buried in her neck, a new hand growing as she tore a chunk free from Kahari’s friend. She pushed off Nissa, driving her into the ground in the process. Bedora bellowed in rage, and charged in again. Kahari dashed to his wounded friend, who was chanting to start healing herself, but was struggling because of the wound. Kahari put his hand near the bite, and chanted for himself.

“Power of Heaven, Mend Wound!”

He managed to staunch the bleeding with the spell, partially closing it. This gave Nissa time to cast her own healing spell, Reform Flesh. While she was healing herself, Kahari turned his attention back to the fight. The woman was on the offensive, partially healed by the bite she’d consumed. She was faster now, her attacks hitting with more force. It seemed Nissa’s flesh had done more than heal the woman. Kahari circled around behind her, waiting for an opening. There! Her foot slipped in a patch of blood. It was only for a split second, but it gave Kahari and Bedora their chance to take control back. Hammer high, sword low, they both swung. The girl ducked under the hammer, but the sword caught her in the ribs, she’d been caught by surprise. It was a shallow cut, but damage was damage. She rolled with the slash, minimizing damage, and freeing herself from being flanked. As she got back to her fleet, a crossbow bolt sprouted from one leg. Nissa was back in the fight.

“Puppy found some bitches to train him. I’ll make you watch while I eat them. Maybe I’ll save you, take a little bit every day for a while.”

She was angry now, taunting them as it was obvious she still had plenty of fight left. Bedora had many small cuts on her arms now, and a gash on her chin. Of course, this meant she was hitting harder now, but things couldn’t continue like this. The Ghast wasn’t tiring, but the trio only had so much energy of their own. Bedora didn’t charge this time, circling to the right, warhammer at the ready. The trio, all three at once, raised their hands. The woman’s eyes widened and she started chanting, desperate to reinforce her shadow barrier.

“Wind Blade!”
“Firebolt!”
“Petal Storm!”

The three shouted their spells in unison as the girl shouted her own, the barrier in front of her repairing and growing a little larger. A swarm of pink-purple petals formed a vortex around the woman. Some petals slashed at the barrier, but many many more cut into her entire form. The Firebolt splashed across the barrier, straining it further, though it still held. Kahari’s Wind Blade went low, going beneath the barrier and cutting into the woman’s shins. Unlike with the Orb Weavers, it didn’t make it through, but it still damaged her. The vortex calmed after a few seconds, the remaining petals drifting in the wind or settling into the grass. Even if she was stronger than any of them, three on one was straining her. It seemed she was better for one on one fights. Her amber eyes glowed with visible rage, focused now on Nissa once more. She raised her hand, and chanted again. Nissa braced for whatever spell was coming her way. All three were surprised when the girl said.

“Greater Shadow Barrier.”

The shield grew, and surrounded her entirely. There was no longer any gap in the shield for attacks to slip through. Kahari panted, trying to regain his composure and think more clearly. Power enough wasn’t going to be enough to overwhelm her, they needed something else. Kahari looked around as Bedora moved to re-engage. He’s eyes tracked over the grass, then he spotted it. The arrow! That could be the answer, if they expected it to pierce the large Holy Barrier Jun was maintaining, maybe it could pierce this Greater Shadow Barrier. Kahari moved to get it, and the bow of the archer he killed. The woman taunted Bedora as she saw Kahari running.

“Aww, look at the little puppy run. He’s abandoning you, looks like you picked the wrong hound.”

Bedora smiled, and brought her hammer down hard on the barrier, it dented again but held. She knew Kahari wouldn’t run from this, she knew his rage all too well. The Ghast however, did not. Bedora kept the pressure up while Nissa drank a small blue potion, restoring some of her mana. Bedora grunted in pain as the girl drove a dagger into her gut, but started laughing.

“That hurt! That’s bad for you.”

The woman cocked her head in confusion, though her attacks didn’t stop or slow. She hadn’t realized yet that every time she hurt Bedora, Bedora hit back harder. Kahari got back to Nissa’s side, and held out the still glowing arrow and the shortbow the archer had been using.

“Can this get through her shield?”

Nissa inspected the arrow for a moment, and smiled, nodding.

“I believe so, it’s an anti-magic arrow. It’ll pierce the shield, and temporarily lock the mana of the target it hits. Get me an opening, and I’ll shut the Ghast down.”

“Got it.”

Kahari charged back into the fight. As he approached, Bedora was forced down to one knee as the Ghast slammed her foot into the side of Bedora’s right leg. Her daggers flashed, angling for a kill. Instead they found a sword blade as Kahari got there in time to parry the attack, chiping the edge of his blade in the process. Bedora got back to her feet, and circled to the girls right side as Kahari went for a low thrust. The girl blocked it with ease, but had to turn her focus to the Amazon pressuring her. From where Bedora was, she could see Nissa ready with the bow. She smiled, and swung, the spike from her hammer creating a small hole in the barrier as it punched through.

The Ghast moved back, eyes widening with surprise.

“What are you?!”

“A warrior!”

“Wrong! You’re my prey!”

She kept backing away, chanting as she tried to repair the barrier. Nissa let loose with the arrow. The Ghast turned at the sound of the bow, eyes widening as she saw the arrow coming her way. She tried to dodge, but Kahari was in the way to one side, and Bedora the other.

“NO!”

She screamed in defiant rage, as if her words could stop the arrow. It went through the barrier like it didn’t exist, before thudding into the woman’s gut. The barrier shattered the moment it made contact with her. In that instant, Bedora brought the spike of the hammer down on her head. She was still standing even as the spike embedded itself in her skull, clawing at the hammer to try and pull it free. Kahari swung, cutting into her neck. She screamed and brought her dagger around, stabbing Kahari in the arm. He swung again, chipping bone. Again, and her screams stopped as he cut her windpipe. A fourth swing finally separated her head from her shoulders. Her mouth still moved, wordless on the spike. Bedora growled in disgust, and raised her hammer before slamming it into the ground. The Ghast was dead, all three were badly wounded, and their chests heaved from the exertion. They turned away from her to find the surviving Night Talon’s fleeing now that their leader was gone . Most of them lay unmoving, and while many of Sok’s guards were wounded, few of them were dead. Jun’s barrier was cracked, but still holding.

Kahari felt bile fill his mouth as the stench of blood and death filled his nose. The Ghast’s body was rotting quickly, and the other corpses didn’t help. Kahari threw up, bent over in the grass. Bedora put a hand on his back, knowing full well everyone that wasn’t deranged dealt with this at first. Nissa limped over, a large gash in her thigh that was only partially healed. She put a hand on Kahari’s back, and smiled despite her pain.

“Good job kid, that was a hell of a fight.”

“She was just toying with me…”

“Yes, and it cost her her life. It gave Bedora and myself time to reach you, and because she focused on us, you could land hits on her.”

“I didn’t do much.”

“Nonsense, she underestimated you because of your low level, and it cost her the fight. If she had treated you as seriously as us two, we could have lost.”

“Mmm.”

She had a point, every blow Kahari had landed had been because she was treating him like he was a fly. He had gotten the killing blow because Bedora had held her down, and Nissa had landed her shot. The three of them had taken down a superior foe because of her acting like Kahari didn’t matter. He tried to stand up, but his legs were weak and he fell back to the grass. Bedora pulled him up and let him lean on her.

“Get some rest Kahari, we’ll handle the clean up.”

“...alright.”

After getting him back into bed, Bedora and Nissa healed up, and left to go collect bodies. The Night Talon’s they’d strip of anything useful, and burn to keep undead from spawning. Sok would build proper funeral pyres for the fallen, and add their names to the memorial tapestry they kept. Kahari had little trouble falling asleep, now that the first of his enemies was dead by his own hand.

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Durmatagno

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